ARLINGTON, Texas — Nick Tepesch pitched into the eighth inning in his major league debut, Lance Berkman had a key two-run single among three hits and the Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 Tuesday night.
Tepesch retired 12 straight batters before hesitating to pick up a slow roller from Kelly Johnson that went for a one-out single in the eighth. The 24-year-old right-hander left to a standing ovation after Desmond Jennings followed with his second double of the game.
Tepesch (1-0) allowed four hits and a run with three walks and five strikeouts.
Roberto Hernandez (0-2) gave up eight hits and six runs – five earned – in 6 2-3 innings.
Berkman gave Texas a 2-1 lead in the third on a two-run bloop single that just eluded diving second baseman Ben 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 on a strike call that plate umpire Marty Foster later acknowledged was wrong.
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.
Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to let Tepesch start the eighth with a pitch count of 96. Tepesch would have retired Johnson if he had just picked up the ball along the first-base line, but hesitated just long enough to allow Johnson to reach.
Washington talked to Tepesch for several seconds before giving him a pat on the chest and signaling to the bullpen. Left-hander Robbie Ross kept Tepesch's line intact by getting Matt Joyce on a popout and Zobrist on a grounder with runners at second and third.
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.
Tampa Bay scored in the third when Jennings led off with a double that landed near Martin in right-center. Jennings went to third on a grounder by Joyce and scored on another grounder by Zobrist, who went 0 for 4 after he was at the plate for Foster's botched call Monday.
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.