Forget the rookie status. The Texas Rangers’ rookies in the rotation have pitched like savvy veterans the past two nights.
After Nick Tepesch threw 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball Thursday, Justin Grimm turned in his best start in the big leagues Friday.
Grimm threw seven scoreless innings, and the Rangers avoided a late scare to hold on for a 4-3 victory over the Twins at Target Field. Texas has won eight of its last 10 games and is the only team left in the majors without consecutive losses.
“If we keep that up for 90-95 games, we’re going to be in good shape,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “You’ve got to grind out every game, and we’re winning right now with good pitching and good defense.”
Grimm pitched well all night. He scattered five hits with no walks and four strikeouts, commanding his fastball well on a night his breaking ball was off and on.
Grimm, who was called up when Matt Harrison went down with a back injury earlier this month, stranded two runners in the first inning and worked out of jams the rest of the way.
The Twins’ leadoff man reached in the third, but Grimm erased that by inducing a double-play grounder in the next at-bat. The leadoff man reached again in the sixth, but Grimm retired the next three to end that threat.
Grimm pitched around a one-out single in the seventh and has not allowed a run in his last 15 innings pitched.
“I thought his performance was outstanding,” manager Ron Washington said. “He had good pop on his fastball, spotted it around the zone. He was sharp tonight.”
Grimm improved to 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts and has held opponents to 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
Grimm credited his success with runners on base to simplifying everything.
“I really bear down and concentrate on making that pitch to get the guy out,” Grimm said.
As far as whether it felt like his best outing in his young career, Grimm said: “From a stats standpoint, yes. From a stuff and going-at-hitters standpoint? Probably my last one.”
Either way, Grimm picked up where Tepesch left off and exited with the Rangers up 3-0.
Tanner Scheppers worked a perfect eight, but the Rangers ran into trouble in the ninth. Joe Ortiz allowed the first two batters to reach and was pulled for Joe Nathan with runners on the corners and one out.
Nathan struck out Trevor Plouffe but then gave up a three-run shot to Oswaldo Arcia as the Twins pulled to within 4-3. But Nathan got pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit to fly out in the next at-bat and converted his second save in as many nights.
The Rangers took an early 2-0 lead in the first. Andrus had a one-out double, stole third and scored on Lance Berkman’s two-base blooper down the right-field line. Berkman then scored on a double by Nelson Cruz, who has RBIs in six straight games.
The next two innings didn’t go as smoothly with some base-running adventures.
Geovany Soto singled to start the second inning and was waved home on Mitch Moreland’s double to left-center field. The Twins, though, completed a flawless 8-6-2 relay throw to get Soto at the plate.
In the third, Andrus led off with a single, and Berkman followed by flaring a single just over the infield and into shallow right. Andrus headed for third on Berkman’s single, and the Twins’ throw was off target. Andrus opted to try for home once the ball scooted to the wall, but Plouffe threw him out at the plate.
“That’s how we play,” Washington said. “Sometimes we’re going to run ourselves out of innings.”
The Rangers eventually got back on track. Beltre launched a solo homer to straightaway center field in the sixth, and Ian Kinsler had an RBI double in the ninth to score Craig Gentry from first.
Those proved to be necessary insurance runs.