Nick Tepesch couldn’t match the gem he threw in his major league debut, but on Sunday, the right-hander did what manager Ron Washington always asks from Texas Rangers starting pitchers.
The Rangers still had a chance to win after Tepesch was pulled with two outs in the sixth inning, having allowed four runs.
In the past, Rangers hitters have said that they should win every time their pitchers allow only four runs, and that tune hasn’t changed.
But the Rangers’ bats have hit a deep freeze or have been frozen by good pitching for much of the first two weeks of the season. That was the case all weekend at Safeco Field, and they didn’t thaw out enough to bail out Tepesch.
Rookie starter Brandon Maurer held the Rangers to three runs in six innings, and four Seattle relievers allowed just one hit the rest of the way as the Mariners held on for a 4-3 victory and salvaged a split of the four-game series.
The Rangers are fully aware that they have yet to hit on all cylinders, but they also look at the calendar and see that it’s still April. In other words, they have no worries about the offense staying in a funk all season.
“It’s too early,” said third baseman Adrian Beltre, who his hitting .224 (11 for 49). “I think everyone is trying to get where they’d want to be. I don’t think anyone is concerned. I’m not — at all.”
The Rangers have scored 11 runs the past five games, with all 11 of them coming against the Mariners, and they are the only team in the major leagues that hasn’t posted a four-run inning.
They enter an off day Monday with three of their regulars batting .300 or better and four others batting .224 or worse. A four-hit game this early in a season can turn a .250 hitter into a .300 hitter, but the Rangers admit that they have work to do.
“The effort is there, and the approach is right,” said left fielder David Murphy, who is batting .160 (8 for 50). “We’re just not clicking. That can happen in April. We want to be playing to our potential, and we’re not doing that right now.”
The Mariners got single runs in the second — on back-to-back one-out doubles — and in the fourth — on a one-out homer by Raul Ibanez against Tepesch, who pitched out of trouble in the fifth to preserve a 3-2 lead.
But the Mariners scored twice in the sixth on three straight one-out hits, a string that started with a double by Kyle Seager. Tepesch struck out Robert Andino to end his day, and Michael Kirkman got the Rangers into the seventh down 4-3.
Tepesch (1-1) allowed one run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings Tuesday to beat Tampa Bay.
“I needed to make better pitches in some situations,” Tepesch said. “I thought it was OK. I just left some pitches over the plate and they took advantage.”
The Rangers didn’t fare much better against Maurer, who entered with a 16.20 ERA. He gave up only three runs, and one of those was unearned.
Mitch Moreland made it 1-0 in the second when he doubled in Geovany Soto with two outs, and the Rangers added two more two-out runs in the fifth on a Lance Berkman single and a passed ball.
They had the tying run at second base with one out in the seventh, but Elvis Andrus and Craig Gentry struck out. Beltre was at third with two outs in the eighth, but Soto popped out to right against left-hander Oliver Perez.
“We just didn’t get the hit we needed,” manager Ron Washington said.
Rangers players, though, believe it’s just a matter of time until they all start to hit.
“We’re still fighting out there,” said Andrus, who’s hitting .220 (11 for 50). “We’ve been hitting the ball, right on it, and that’s all you can do. Sooner or later, they’re going to start falling in.”