This isn’t how the Texas Rangers wanted the final leg of what had been a promising road trip to end.
The Rangers took three out of four games in Detroit and Minnesota and have seemingly lost their way in the nation’s capital. They were blown out for a second consecutive day on Saturday, falling 10-2 to the Nationals.
The longest road trip of the season might be catching up to them, or possibly having seven day games over this 11-game stretch.
“It’s definitely been the toughest road trip we’ll have this year, but you can’t make any excuses,” first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “You’ve got to go out and keep battling and bounce back and win one tomorrow.”
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The Rangers hope they can avoid being swept with ace Yu Darvish back on the mound Sunday. Nick Tepesch didn’t give them much of a chance Saturday, and they were never able to recover from an early deficit against Nationals right-hander Doug Fister.
Tepesch lasted only two innings, struggling to locate many of his pitches. He gave up a solo homer to Anthony Rendon in the first inning and four more in the second. Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton connected on a fastball for a two-run homer and Jayson Werth drove in two with a double down the left-field line. One of those runs was unearned, however, as Shin-Soo Choo mishandled the ball in left.
Tepesch needed 39 pitches to get through the second and was pulled after that. The two-inning start was the shortest since he lasted 12/3 innings April 20 last season. He left that game after being hit on the arm with a comebacker.
“It’s frustrating,” said Tepesch, who had won his previous two starts.
“Just didn’t really help myself out is the best way to put it. Falling behind like that … you’re not going to win games falling behind and letting pitches leak back over the middle of the plate.”
Manager Ron Washington had seen enough after two innings, as long man Scott Baker continued to warm in the bullpen. When Tepesch’s spot in the lineup came up in the third inning of the interleague game, Washington decided to have right-hander Nick Martinez pinch-hit.
It’s the first time a pitcher has pinch-hit for the Rangers since Ron Mahay did it on July 4, 2004.
“I wasn’t ready to start using my bench because I didn’t think we were totally out of the game right there,” Washington said.
Martinez grounded out, and the Rangers didn’t get their first hit until the next inning on a double by Elvis Andrus.
Fister worked out of that jam, though, and the Nationals extended the lead in their half of the fourth on a three-run homer by Adam LaRoche.
That put the game well out of reach for the Rangers, who managed single runs in the fifth and sixth on RBI hits by Rougned Odor and Moreland.
The Rangers have been outscored 19-4 in the first two games of this series, but Washington downplayed any suggestion that his team was wearing down on the final leg of the road trip.
“When pitching shuts you down, you look like you might be a little fatigued,” Washington said. “But if we could’ve put something together and had a chance to run the bases and make something happen, it wouldn’t have looked so lethargic.
“Pitching stops hitting, and the two guys they sent out there stopped us. And the two guys we sent out there couldn’t stop them. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and regroup.”