SEATTLE -- Nick Tepesch missed a prime chance to become the first Texas Rangers pitcher since Kevin Brown in 1988 to win his first two major league starts. That’s because of misplays by his defense in the pivotal sixth inning.
In the end, the Rangers lost 4-3 in Sunday afternoon’s four-game series finale with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
The Rangers stranded potential tying runs at second base in the seventh inning and at third in the eighth before going in order in the ninth. They are now 8-5 after splitting the series with their AL West rivals.
A little help, please: Tepesch (1-1) was brilliant in his first major league start while allowing Tampa Bay one run in 7⅓ innings last week. Sunday, he made in-game adjustments to put his team in position to win -- and himself to join Brown and Glen Cook in 1985 as the only Texas pitchers to win their first two major league starts.
After allowing a go-ahead home run to Raul Ibanez in the fourth inning on a high fastball, the Rangers reclaimed the lead and Tepesch got Ibanez flailing at a 79 mph changeup to end the fifth with two Mariners on. That kept the Rangers ahead 3-2.
But in the sixth Nelson Cruz failed to get over quickly enough and get his glove down far enough to keep Kyle Seager’s one-out base hit off Tepesch from going past him to the right-field wall. That was a generously scored double. Jesus Montero then hit a broken-bat flare in front of Cruz, an RBI single that would not have scored Seager had Cruz kept him at first base. Compounding that, Montero took second when Cruz overthrew his cutoff man and home by 10 feet trying to cut down Seager.
Tepesch’s second start line: 5⅔ innings, nine hits, four earned runs, five strikeouts, one hit batter.
Hey, thanks: The Rangers had taken the lead briefly in the fifth thanks to Justin Smoak, their former first-round draft pick. With two outs and Texas down 2-1, Lance Berkman hit a hard ground ball a few feet to the right of Smoak, who was playing well off first base. Instead of moving to the ball, Smoak took off left to cover his bag, as if second baseman Ackley was going to get it and throw to him. The ignored roller bounded well wide of a surprised Ackley and into right field for a gift RBI for Berkman, who had rested two of the previous four games. Instead of the potential end to Texas’ rally, Craig Gentry went from first to third on the misplay. Gentry then scored the Rangers’ third run on a passed ball by Montero.
Up next: After Monday’s second off day of the season, Derek Holland (0-1, 2.40 ERA) starts the series opener Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Holland is the only Rangers starter to begin the season with two consecutive quality starts. He faces left-hander Travis Wood (1-0, 1.46) on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM.