Nick Tepesch met the Ron Washington standard for a starting pitcher Friday night.
The right-hander kept the Texas Rangers in the game.
So did Joseph Ortiz, Jason Frasor, Robbie Ross and Cory Burns.
The Rangers’ offense, though, was unable to make a winner of any of those five pitchers.
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Rick Porcello allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings, and he and four Detroit relievers were at their best with runners in scoring position as the Tigers eked out a 2-1 victory at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and three times they stranded a runner at third base. Their only run came on a solo homer by Geovany Soto in the fifth.
“Tepesch did his job. We just couldn’t deliver a punch,” Washington said. “You just have to give credit to the Detroit Tigers’ pitchers.”
Tepesch (3-4) allowed only two runs in five innings, and four Rangers relievers didn’t allow a hit in four innings. But Tepesch never had a 1-2-3 inning and seemed to flirt with trouble throughout.
He walked two batters in the second but stranded both runners, and needed a strong throw from center fielder Leonys Martin in the third to cut down Andy Dirks at home and keep the game scoreless.
The Tigers saw their leadoff man reach in four straight innings before finally cashing in against Tepesch in the fifth.
Andy Dirks opened with a single and went to second on a Torii Hunter groundout. Miguel Cabrera followed with a screaming double off the left-field wall to score Dirks with the game’s first run.
Tepesch then hit Prince Fielder and allowed a single to Victor Martinez to load the bases for Alex Avila, who made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly. The rally fizzled there as Jhonny Peralta struck out, but Tepesch was done after five slowly worked, laborious innings.
“They definitely have a good lineup,” said Tepesch, who threw 96 pitches. “It was pretty good for the most part. I made a few bad pitches but stuck to the game plan. I just didn’t really get a quick inning. There were a lot of guys on base, trying to work out of that, and it led to a lot of long innings.”
Soto started the Rangers’ fifth with a homer, his second long ball in as many nights, but that was the only damage done against Porcello on a night the Rangers had several chances against the right-hander.
Their two best opportunities against him came in the third and fourth.
Martin tripled to right-center with one out in the third, but Elvis Andrus lined out and Leury Garcia looked at strike three to end the third.
The Rangers had their first two hitters in the fourth, Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre, open with singles. But Nelson Cruz bounced into a double play, and Mitch Moreland was out on a grounder to kill that threat.
Moreland also left Beltre at third in the sixth inning after Beltre walked with two outs and advanced on a bloop single by Cruz.
“When [Porcello] threw the ball down and in, it’s hard to square the ball up. That was his key today,” Cruz said. “It was nothing new. He was throwing his sinker and wasn’t throwing anything in the middle where we could do some damage.”
Porcello kept wiggling free.
“He was about as good as I’ve ever seen him,” Washington said. “He loaded up the strike zone with all kinds of pitches. We worked him pretty good, but he made pitches when he had to.”
Another golden opportunity came against former teammate Joaquin Benoit in the eighth. Garcia, subbing on the night for Ian Kinsler, started the inning with a single and went to third on a one-out hit by Beltre.
That brought up Cruz, who had homered in two straight games and who delivered two sacrifice flies Tuesday night. But he hit a one-hopper to second that resulted in his second double play of the game.
The game ended with Kinsler, pinch-running for Soto after a one-out walk, at second base as Craig Gentry bounced out.
“We had a few opportunities to tie the ballgame after Tepesch left, but we just didn’t get the hit,” Washington said.
Said designated hitter Lance Berkman: “They’re a tough opponent, and we’re tough, too. This was more the kind of game everyone expected last night [when Yu Darvish faced Justin Verlander]. But we got to see two pretty good pitching performances, and they scored one more than we did.”