Texas will look for its sixth win in seven games while Tampa Bay hopes to shake off a bad call and avoid a third straight defeat.
The Rangers claimed a 5-4 victory Monday on Joe Nathan 's 300th save, but the last out came with plenty of dissent. On a 3-2 count, Ben Zobrist headed to first base after a pitch from Nathan that appeared to be well outside the strike zone but ended up getting called a third strike to end the game.
Zobrist was in disbelief, then Rays manager Joe Maddon gave home plate umpire Marty Foster and the rest of the crew his thoughts on the call. He argued with them well after the game closed - with the potential tying run on base for Tampa Bay.
Even Foster expressed regret.
"Had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn't call that pitch a strike," Foster said.
Maddon likely won't face disciplinary action, according to crew chief Tim Welke, though he had showed no restraint in vocalizing his disagreement with the call.
"It just can't happen in a Major League Baseball game," Maddon said, reiterating the sentiment of a tweet he also sent following the game.
Meanwhile, Texas (5-2) will look to carry its recent home-run onslaught into Tuesday. After the Rangers connected on three homers in each of their previous two games against the Angels, A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland each provided one Monday.
Pierzynski is 8 for 15 in his last four games and became the seventh player to homer in the first seven games for Texas, which had only home run through its first three contests.
With previous success against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez - formerly known as Fausto Carmona - the Rangers will try to tee off against him once more. Nelson Cruz is 5 for 16 against Hernandez with three home runs, while David Murphy is 7 for 14 and Elvis Andrus 5 for 14.
Hernandez has lost his last five decisions versus the Rangers and owns a 2-8 record in 12 career starts against them with a 5.37 ERA. He yielded four runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 6-3 loss to Baltimore on Thursday.
Though Tampa Bay's bid for a road win Monday ended with Zobrist at the dish, things have mostly gone well for him this season. Zobrist, whose career-high batting average was .297 in 2009, is 10 for 25 (.400) with seven RBIs for the Rays (3-4).
Zobrist and the rest of the order will look to ruin Rangers starter Nick Tepesch 's big-league debut. Tepesch won the fifth spot in Texas' rotation out of spring training, but the team elected to skip his first start due to an off day Thursday.
However, Tepesch did throw on his normal rest that day for Triple-A Round Rock, surrendering five hits and an unearned run over five innings. He was 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA in 18 innings this spring.
"Nick has impressed," general manager Jon Daniels told the club's official website. "We knew he was a strike thrower and had a four-pitch mix, but we were really impressed with the way he handled situations and the way he handled adversity. He earned it."
Evan Longoria is hitting .375 with five home runs in his last 10 games against the Rangers, including a 3-for-3 performance Monday.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|April 05, 2013||Jeff Niemann||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|March 31, 2013||Juan Carlos Oviedo||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 24, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|April 07, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|March 24, 2013||Neftali Feliz||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Joakim Soria||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Martin Perez||15-Day DL||Cracked ulna bone, left forearm|
|March 22, 2013||Colby Lewis||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 03, 2013||Martin Perez||Day-to-Day||Fractured left forearm|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Nick Tepesch charged a slow grounder by Kelly Johnson and couldn't decide what to do once he got to the ball.
The resulting infield single when the right-hander was cruising along with a two-hitter in the eighth inning of his major league debut was about the only mistake he made.
Tepesch held Tampa Bay to a run on four hits in 7 1-3 innings, Lance Berkman had a key two-run single among three hits and the Texas Rangers beat the Rays 6-1 Tuesday night.
"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 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.
"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, who drove home Jennings, and Evan 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.
Zobrist, who was at the plate for Foster's botched call on Monday, went 0 for 4 with an RBI.
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.