Arlington, TX – Nick Tepesch turned in a sensational major- league debut and received plenty of support from his Texas teammates as the Rangers cruised to a 6-1 victory over the slumping Tampa Bay Rays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Tepesch (1-0) yielded just one run and four hits while striking out five batters before being removed with one out in top of the eighth. The rookie retired 12 consecutive hitters before surrendering a single to Kelly Johnson followed by a Desmond Jennings double in his final inning of work.
"It was a confidence booster," Tepesch said. "I'm extremely happy with how it went tonight."
Lance Berkman was the offensive star in Texas' third straight win and sixth triumph in seven outings following an Opening Night defeat, going 3-for-4 with a two-run single. Elvis Andrus also drove in a pair of runs for the Rangers, while Leonys Martin finished 2-for-3 and scored three times.
Jennings recorded two of his team's four hits in the setback, the third in a row for the Rays and second straight in this series. Roberto Hernandez (0-2) was hit with the loss after permitting six runs -- five earned -- over 6 2/3 innings.
"It's so early in the year you really can't get concerned," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Tepesch did encounter some issues early on, walking three batters to load the bases with two outs in the second before striking out Johnson to end the threat. Jennings reached the right-hander for a leadoff double in the third, and later came in on Ben Zobrist's ground out to give the Rays a 1-0 edge.
The Rangers answered with a pair of runs in their half of the frame to move in front.
A walk to Martin and an Ian Kinsler single put two men on for Berkman, who knocked home both runners with a flare into right-center field that dropped in over a diving Zobrist from second base and enabled a hustling Kinsler to cross the plate uncontested all the way from first.
Hernandez encountered no trouble in the fourth before running into problems an inning later, with Martin starting things off with a base hit and Andrus singling up the middle to bring home the rookie two batters later.
Andrus then stole second, took third on a Berkman single and scored on Adrian Beltre's grounder for a 4-1 Texas advantage.
Tepesch made the lead stand by dominating the middle innings, setting down 12 batters in a row after James Loney opened the fourth with a single. That streak and his night both came to an end after Johnson and Jennings each reached consecutively, but reliever Robbie Ross got out of the jam by retiring pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez and Zobrist to keep it a three-run game.
Texas put the contest out of reach in the bottom of the seventh. Singles by Martin and Kinsler followed by an Andrus ground out tacked on another run, with the last scoring when Loney misplayed a grounder off the bat of David Murphy.
Tepesch became the 14th pitcher in Rangers' history to win his big league debut, with both Yu Darvish and Justin Grimm accomplishing the feat last season ... Hernandez has now lost six consecutive decisions to the Rangers and fell to 2-9 lifetime against Texas. His last win over the Rangers took place while with Cleveland on Aug. 22, 2008 ... Tampa Bay went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, one night after going 2-for-12 in such situations in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Rangers ... The Rays announced prior to the game that pitcher Jeff Niemann will undergo shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will likely miss the entire 2013 season.