MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rangers received confirmation Thursday on what they already suspected is true about their bullpen. Alexi Ogando could be the difference between an outstanding bullpen and a serviceable one.
"There's no doubt about it," veteran reliever Jason Frasor said after a 5-4 victory over the Twins at Target Field. "He's a weapon. He's a game-changer when that arm is feeling good. Late in the game, you need somebody like that who can throw 95 with a nasty slider. You need a power right-hander in the back of the bullpen. He's our guy. He is one of the most important weapons on the team."
Ogando came in at the right time and helped steady the Rangers' pitching after a turbulent 5 2/3 innings by starter Nick Martinez. The game was tied in the bottom of the sixth when, with two on and two out, Ogando retired Joe Mauer on a weak grounder to second.
Ogando also worked through the middle of the Twins' order for a scoreless seventh, putting him in position to get the win when the Texas manufactured a run in the top of the eighth. Leonys Martin led off with a double, was bunted to third by Robinson Chirinos and scored on a shallow fly to center by Rougned Odor. Martin just beat the throw from center fielder Danny Santana.
"I know it's a tight game, the eighth inning," Martin said. "That situation, you've got to do it. He has to make a perfect throw to get me out."
Ogando's work in the sixth and seventh also allowed manager Ron Washington to line up the rest of the bullpen for the final two innings. Frasor, who has been rock solid for two months, retired the side in order in the eighth with two strikeouts, Neal Cotts retired Mauer on another grounder to start the ninth, and then Joakim Soria nailed down the last two outs for his 10th save.
The win allowed the Rangers to take three of four from the Twins this week, and they are now 6-2 on their 11-game trip.
"Ogando came in and bridged the game," Washington said. "His 1 1/3 innings was huge. We certainly needed it in order to do what we did in the end. The game doesn't always allow you to do what you want to do, but today it did."
Ogando has had his issues this season while trying to work out a consistent delivery. The Rangers are trying to make sure he stays on top of his delivery, drive down the hill with power and keep his fastball low. If he does that, he can mix in his devastating slider. The Rangers are hoping they will see that consistently now that he has a 1.04 ERA in his last eight outings.
"It's getting better," Ogando said. "I'm more comfortable, and my delivery is better. My stuff is better. Right now, I'm doing my job."
Soria was pitching for the third straight day, something since he hadn't done since his return from a long hiatus because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. He had pitched back-to-back once this season, but he hadn't gone three days in a row since April 1-3, 2011. Soria retired Trevor Plouffe on one pitch with a fly ball to center. Oswaldo Arcia singled, but Soria struck out Josh Willingham to end the game.
"I felt good," Soria said. "I went through all my preparation last night, and I felt good. If I didn't … if I felt sore, I would tell them. But everything was good."
Martinez said he felt good physically, but he still allowed four runs on nine hits. He walked two and struck out two before turning it over to Ogando.
"Sometimes it's not your day, but you still have to go out there and battle," Martinez said. "I was just leaving some pitches up. I wasn't really sharp."
Shin-Soo Choo gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead in the second inning against Twins starter Samuel Deduno with a three-run double, snapping an 0-for-11 skid. The Twins put together four singles in the third to make it a one-run game, then went ahead in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run home run by Willingham. The Rangers tied it in the sixth on a double by Martin and a single by Chirinos.
"Unfortunately, we gave it right back to them," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Once we got our lead with a home run, we gave it right back to them again. Those guys over there got after it pretty good and came up with the big hits when they had to, and their bullpen did a really nice job of shutting us down after that."
The bullpen's work began with Ogando.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.