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Rays shut down by rookie in 6-1 loss to Rangers

Wednesday - 4/10/2013, 1:40am  ET

SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Ben Zobrist and the Tampa Bay Rays didn't have to worry about another blown call at the end of the game.

Texas Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch took care of that in his major league debut.

Tepesch held Tampa Bay to a run on four hits in 7 1-3 innings, Lance Berkman had a key two-run single among his three hits and Rangers beat the Rays 6-1 Tuesday night.

"For his first big league start, I was impressed," said Zobrist, who was 0 for 4 but drove in the only run a day after he was at the plate for a game-ending strike call that umpire Marty Foster later acknowledged was wrong. "He did a phenomenal job keeping it on the corners, mixing it up and throwing strikes."

Tepesch was cruising along with a two-hitter in the eighth when he made just about his only mistake. He charged a grounder by Kelly Johnson but was unable to decide what to do once he got to the ball.

"I should have picked it up and thrown it to first, but the way it spun I for some reason thought it might go foul," Tepesch said. "Just kind of a bad decision, to be honest with you."

A bad decision, perhaps, but one made amid a bunch of good pitches from Tepesch, a 24-year-old in his third pro season out of Missouri who won the No. 5 starter's spot in spring training while the Rangers wait for Colby Lewis to return from elbow surgery.

After a couple of shaky innings early, Tepesch retired 12 straight batters before Johnson's dribbler up the first-base line. When Desmond Jennings followed with his second double, manager Ron Washington visited the mound for a chat that lasted several seconds before he gave Tepesch a pat on the chest and signaled to the bullpen.

"Tremendous makeup," Washington said. "Trusts his stuff, knows what he's capable of doing. Never gets outside of himself. Those are the traits we saw in spring training."

Roberto Hernandez (0-2) gave up eight hits and six runs -- five earned -- in 6 2-3 innings.

Berkman put Texas ahead 2-1 in the third on a two-run bloop single that just eluded Zobrist in right-center. Ian Kinsler scored from first after breaking quickly and getting around third just as the ball was landing.

Texas reliever Jason Frasor got Shelley Duncan on a fly to right for the final out, a much less dramatic ending than Monday when Joe Nathan earned his 300th save in a 5-4 win after Foster called Zobrist out on strikes on a pitch that looked low and outside.

"We lost the battle of inches," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Berkman hits a softie to center. That's how the ball rolls sometimes."

After a 1-2-3 first, Tepesch walked the bases loaded in the second, getting a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux after a two-out pass to Yunel Escobar. Tepesch walked Jose Molina after Maddux left, but struck out Johnson on three pitches, the last a 79 mph curveball after hitting 94 mph on a fastball to Evan Longoria earlier in the inning.

Jennings had a leadoff double in the third, but the Rays only got one run after consecutive groundouts from Matt Joyce, Zobrist and Longoria.

"Big league debuts can usually go one of two ways. They can either go really well or go really bad," Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Once he got out of the second and third innings, you could see it kind of relaxed him and we got him a lead and he really settled in and did a great job."

Robbie Ross kept Tepesch's line intact by getting Joyce on a popout and Zobrist on a grounder with runners at second and third.

"Well, I guess you could have thrown a complete-game shutout, but other than that ..." Berkman said. "That's pretty tough to beat. He pitched great."

Leonys Martin, born the same year as Tepesch but no longer a rookie because of too much service time last year, had two singles and scored three times for the Rangers.

Martin started the seventh with a single, went to third when Kinsler was thrown out trying to stretch a single and scored when Elvis Andrus hit a slow roller up the third base line. Berkman doubled and was replaced by pinch-runner Craig Gentry, who scored from second on an error by first baseman James Loney to put the Rangers up 6-1.

NOTES: The Rangers are leaning toward skipping LHP Matt Harrison in the rotation Thursday at Seattle because of a sore back. He's still scheduled to start, but canceled a bullpen session Tuesday. ... Rays RHP Jeff Niemann said his decision to have season-ending shoulder surgery came after his arm simply didn't respond to a move to the bullpen. The former starter said it was difficult trying to get ready to pitch every day. He estimated the recovery time at nine to 12 months.


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