Word from the Texas Rangers’ manager and their starting pitcher early Saturday evening was that the Cleveland Indians’ hitters deserved much of the credit for what happened on a steamy afternoon at Globe Life Park.
And Ron Washington and Nick Tepesch weren’t entirely wrong.
Tepesch was a much better pitcher than what he had shown May 31 at Washington. He entered the sixth inning having allowed only one run. At that point, he had survived five hits and four walks to meet Washington’s basic standard of keeping the team in the game.
But it felt almost miraculous that the Indians had scored only once, and Tepesch caved in the sixth when he allowed two singles and a three-run homer to Yan Gomes that put the Indians on the path to an eventual 8-3 victory.
Robbie Ross, though, was at the helm for 75 percent of the Indians’ four-run seventh inning after the Rangers had closed within 4-3 only a half-inning earlier.
The problem for Tepesch and Ross wasn’t that they pitched badly, said Washington. They made good pitches that Indians hitters fought off or turned into well-placed hits.
The problem was that pitches weren’t good enough, which Washington wouldn’t say. They caught just too much of the plate. They didn’t move as much as needed. Indians hitters, who struck out only once against Tepesch and Ross, weren’t fooled enough.
That’s an ongoing problem for the Rangers when Tepesch and Ross take the ball.
“I made a few good pitches, and they did a good job of hitting and got them over somebody or in the hole,” Tepesch said. “That’s what you’re trying to do [when] hitting is take those good pitches that the pitcher gives you and do anything you can with them.”
The Indians made Yu Darvish work his tail off Friday over seven innings with a lineup stacked with left-handed hitters, scoring four runs on nine hits. Tepesch allowed one hit fewer against many of the same hitters, though he lasted only 51/3 innings.
Give the Indians’ hitters credit, indeed.
Tepesch, though, often struggles to put hitters away, and they pretty much have him solved after seeing him two times. That third time through the order was kryptonite for Tepesch last season, and on Saturday the Indians went 4 for 8 with a walk and Gomes’ three-run shot to center.
Tepesch (2-2) said that he isn’t concerned about it. He should be.
“They put some good swings on some good pitches today, and I just made one bad pitch right there in the last inning,” Tepesch said.
The pitch was a breaking ball that was down in the zone but down the middle of the plate. Gomes hit it 404 feet to straightaway center field for a 4-1 lead.
The Rangers made it interesting in their half of the sixth, scoring once on an Adrian Beltre double that just missed being a two-run homer and adding another run as Beltre scampered home on a wild pitch.
But Michael Brantley opened the seventh with a double off Ross and scored two batters later on a single by Lonnie Chisenhall. Tanner Scheppers entered and allowed Chisenhall to score on a slow roller by Ryan Rayburn before Carlos Santana swatted a 3-2 pitch into the Rangers’ bullpen.
Ross was also the victim of a few soft liners that found green grass, but the left-hander also retired only one of the four lefty hitters he faced. Just as Tepesch struggles against hitters the third time through, Ross continues to struggle to get lefties out.
The Indians (here it comes) hit some good pitches. Give them credit.
“Yeah, it was a pivotal inning, and once again I think you have to give those hitters credit for fighting off pitches and finding holes,” Washington said. “Sometimes you make your pitches and you don’t get the results you’re looking for, and that was the case with Robbie.”
Don’t trust these eyes, though. Those on the field and in the dugout are far more reliable, and they weren’t entirely wrong Saturday.
But Tepesch and Ross fell victim to the same traps that have gotten them all too often in the past. That’s an ongoing problem for the Rangers.