Rangers lose series as Tepesch, offense struggle again

Nick Tepesch hasn’t performed badly the past six weeks, especially considering he’s a rookie who had never pitched above Double A before making his major-league debut in April.

But he has won only once since his maiden month, and the same goes for his team in those eight starts. He’s given them a chance to win in many of them, but the offense hasn’t given him much support.

Those bats are more a concern, though, and they were flat again on another night when Tepesch needed some support.

Tepesch allowed five runs in five innings, and the Texas Rangers’ lineup was shut down for a second straight game as Cleveland rolled to a 5-2 victory Wednesday to take the rubber game in the three-game series.

Rangers coaches went so far as to hold a pregame hitters meeting. The hitters had better at-bats, but the end result was lacking.

“We tried to get them to relax and just do what you’re capable of doing with the pitches you get,” manager Ron Washington said. “June hasn’t been great.”

The Rangers are batting .219 after 11 games this month, and they have scored only 35 times. Ubaldo Jimenez allowed only one run in five-plus innings, and the Rangers’ lone run came on a Leonys Martin homer to start the third.

Jurickson Profar followed with a single but was erased as David Murphy bounced into a double play. Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre reached with two outs, but A.J. Pierzynski bounced the first pitch weakly to first to end the threat.

Profar, batting leadoff for the second time in his career, had three hits and an RBI double in the ninth, but the five hitters behind him went a combined 2 for 16.

“It happens,” said Jeff Baker, who went 0 for 4. “You have a bunch of guys who care. Everyone in here cares.”

Tepesch’s record fell to 3-6 and his ERA climbed to 4.30 as he lost his third straight decision. The Rangers have lost his past five starts and seven of eight since he went 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in four starts in April.

“It’s not really something I worry about,” he said. “It’s not something to waste time over.”

Murphy bailed out Tepesch to end the first inning, nailing Michael Bourn at the plate as he tried to score on a Michael Brantley single to left field.

But Tepesch couldn’t save himself in the second after he plunked Jason Giambi in the leg on a 1-2 pitch with two outs. He then fell behind in the count 2-0 to Mike Aviles before yielding a two-run homer.

Cleveland kept coming in the third, as Bourn and Jason Kipnis singled to start the inning. Bourn scored on a one-out single by Brantley, the Indians’ sixth hit.

Kipnis got them another run in the fifth, knocking Tepesch’s first pitch into the right-field seats, and Carlos Santana added a one-out RBI double after Brantley had walked.

That was it for Tepesch, who allowed 11 of the 25 batters he faced to reach. Eight of them collected hits as Rangers lost for the fifth time in seven games and the seventh time in the past 11. But they have scored only nine runs behind Tepesch in his bad run.

“Run support,” Washington said. “If we could have scored some runs for him, maybe he would have won five.”

Ian Kinsler should be back Sunday from the disabled list, which could provide a spark offensively, and Mitch Moreland expects to be back for the next road trip late next week.

“What I have is what I have,” Washington said. “We just have to wait for it to come around. We’re a little flat offensively.”

But the club isn’t inclined to make a change with Tepesch, though he and left-hander Martin Perez are on the same schedule.

Perez lost his only big-league start this season on May 28, but is 4-1 with a 2.10 ERA in five starts with Triple A Round Rock.

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