Nick Tepesch hadn’t won in an eight-start stretch and hadn’t posted a quality start in more than a month.
The Houston Astros were the team, it seemed, who could cure it all. But the worst team in the majors only cured half of it.
Tepesch earned a win for the first time since May 12 but couldn’t complete a quality start in a 10-5 Rangers victory to open a three-game series.
“It was a good night,” Tepesch said. “As long as we win, I’m not really worried about [my wins]. We played great defense and hit the ball well.”
Tepesch had the luxury of pitching with a lead all night. David Murphy had a two-run homer in the first, Nelson Cruz came through with a grand slam in the second and Adrian Beltre highlighted a three-run fourth with a two-run blast.
And Tepesch cruised through five innings with relative ease.
Jose Altuve started the game with a single to center, but Tepesch responded by retiring the next 10 batters. He struck out the side in the second and had set his career high in strikeouts with nine by the end of the fourth inning.
He then worked out of a jam in the fifth. With runners at the corners and one out, Tepesch induced an inning-ending, double-play grounder by Ronny Cedeno.
Things unraveled in the sixth for Tepesch, though, who once again struggled the third time through a lineup. Altuve singled to left, Brett Wallace drew a walk, and then Jason Castro and Chris Carter had RBI hits to end Tepesch’s night.
The final line for Tepesch read four runs on seven hits over five-plus innings. Opponents are batting .465 against him the third time through the lineup. But getting his first win in almost two months outweighed all of that.
“Tonight he just ran out of gas,” manager Ron Washington said. “He threw a lot of pitches, and there in the sixth they started working him a little bit. To me he just ran out of gas because he quit getting extension. The balls he was driving through the strike zone were hitting the dirt, so he was running out of gas.”
Said Tepesch: “Just didn’t throw good pitches.”
Ross Wolf allowed an unearned run over three innings of relief work, and Jason Frasor closed it out with a perfect ninth.
The offense got an unexpected, early spark from Murphy in the first inning. Ian Kinsler walked to start the inning, and Murphy followed by sending a two-run homer to right-center off Lucas Harrell.
The Rangers had scored only one first-inning run in their previous 25 games, and Friday marked only the fourth time they had scored multiple runs in the opening inning this season.
“It was good to jump on them early to take the pressure off of Tepesch,” Murphy said. “It’s great to see the offense explode like we’re capable of.”
Cruz set off the explosion in the second. Kinsler and Murphy drew two-out walks to load the bases, and Cruz unloaded on a 1-2 fastball to left-center for a grand slam and a 6-0 lead. Cruz is now batting .290 with 17 RBIs in 15 games since moving to the three-hole, and Washington said his right fielder deserves to be an All-Star.
For the Astros, things only got worse.
Harrell had given up a run in the fourth but appeared to get out of the inning when Cruz popped up to first. But Wallace dropped the routine pop-up, and Beltre capitalized with a two-run blast off the left-field foul pole.
It was Beltre’s third homer in the past two games and gave the Rangers a 9-0 lead. They made it 10-0 in the fifth on an RBI single by Leonys Martin, who tripled and scored in the fourth. The 10 runs were the most by the Rangers since May 19, and they were scored on only nine hits.
“Hopefully we’ll have a lot more like this,” Murphy said. “We know it won’t happen every night, but we feel like we’re playing good baseball.”