The pitching depth continues to get tested early on this young season for the Texas Rangers.
Nick Tepesch became the latest casualty, exiting his start Saturday in the second inning with a contusion on his right wrist.
Fortunately for the Rangers, Derek Lowe and the bullpen stepped up in a 5-0 victory over the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark.
It’s the second consecutive shutout for the Rangers on days the pitching staff were dealt blows. The team announced Matt Harrison needed back surgery and would be out until at least the All-Star break on Friday, and the team responded with a 7-0 victory behind Yu Darvish. Then Tepesch caught a liner off his right wrist Saturday.
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Good news came after the game, though, when manager Ron Washington said Tepesch is expected to make his next start. It looked like it could have been much worse.
“It definitely could have been a lost worse,” Tepesch said. “Just fortunate the results weren’t too bad.”
Tepesch had thrown 12/3 scoreless innings before Jesus Montero lined a comebacker that ricocheted off his wrist and into right-center field. The contact drew blood and took out a chunk of skin, but that proved to be a beneficial sign as the ball scraped Tepesch rather than making solid contact.
Tepesch didn’t show too much emotion and even threw a few practice pitches after the injury, but the Rangers weren’t going to let him stay in.
“We weren’t going to take any chances,” Washington said.
Lowe entered and saved the day.
Two days after throwing 22/3 innings of relief, Lowe went four innings and needed just 31 pitches to get through it. It’s only the second relief appearance of at least four innings, zero hits and 31 or fewer pitches since pitch counts began in 1988.
He allowed only one base runner — on a hit by pitch — in his longest outing since throwing four scoreless against the Rangers last August with the Yankees.
“This is something I signed up for being the long guy and you have to be ready every single day,” Lowe said. “You never know when that day is going to come, and I pride myself on being prepared.
“Back-to-back shutouts are something the pitching staff should be proud of, and it was good to be a part of it.”
Joe Ortiz worked a scoreless inning of relief, Tanner Scheppers went 11/3 innings and Jason Frasor pitched the ninth.
Ortiz and Scheppers pitched themselves into and out of trouble, and Frasor worked around a one-out walk to preserve the Rangers’ fourth shutout of the season. Texas and Tampa Bay are tied for the most shutouts in the American League.
The bullpen is in fine shape for Sunday’s game, even though it worked 71/3 innings, Washington said.
“We got enough,” he said.
Offensively, the Rangers struggled against Mariners starter Brandon Maurer. They had only two hits off the right-hander, but they were important.
A.J. Pierzynski had a solo home run in the fourth inning, and David Murphy belted his second homer of the season with a solo shot in the seventh. Pierzynski’s home run just cleared the center field fence, and a fan caught the ball before Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez could rob him of his third homer of the season.
The Rangers cushioned their lead with three runs in the eighth. Lance Berkman had a two-run single, and Pierzynski had a run-scoring single.
“The offense has yet to completely click,” Murphy said. “While we’re still trying to find ourselves 1 through 9, our pitchers are going to keep us in games.”
They have come through with shutouts the past two nights, which is impressive. Even more impressive considering they came on days it seemed like the pitching staff suffered significant setbacks.