Good hitting has been the Texas Rangers ' calling card over the past several years, but the success of the pitching staff may be signaling a change for 2013.
Texas (8-4) has reached the postseason three years in a row on the strength of its bats, which led the majors in that span with a .277 average while ranking among the leaders with 572 homers and 5.0 runs per game.
Over the same stretch, the Rangers had a 3.90 ERA.
This season, the staff is leading the way, leading the AL in ERA (2.80) and opponent batting average (.214). The offense, meanwhile, is producing a pedestrian .256 average and 3.8 runs per game.
"It's been like that. We haven't been swinging the bat the way we've wanted lately," said Adrian Beltre , hitting .239 after finishing third in the AL last season at .321. "The key to us has been the pitching staff keeping us in the game. ... We hang around for a couple innings, then we score one or two and that's it, that's all we need."
That's been the recipe during this series, as Texas has won two of three while outscoring Seattle 8-7 behind a .222 average. The Rangers bullpen has allowed one run in 11 innings.
While three relievers held the Mariners to two hits in four scoreless innings after Alexei Ogando went the first five, Beltre and Elvis Andrus came through with RBI singles in the eighth in Saturday's 3-1 win.
Tepesch, 24, is looking to build on a dazzling major league debut.
The right-hander yielded one run and four hits in 7 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 6-1 win over Tampa Bay. He earned the fifth spot in the rotation out of spring training, while Colby Lewis recovers from elbow surgery.
"Tremendous makeup," manager Ron 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."
Tepesch may be in for another strong performance since Seattle (5-8) is hitting .220, including .188 with runners in scoring position over the last four games.
The Mariners, however, may have Franklin Gutierrez back in the lineup after tightness in his right groin relegated him to the bench for the last two games. The center fielder leads Seattle with 10 RBIs and has a .351 average over his last 10 meetings with Texas.
Tepesch will be opposed by another starter who hadn't pitched in the majors until this year, but Brandon Maurer (0-2, 16.20 ERA) has not gotten off to such a good start following an impressive spring training for the Mariners.
Maurer failed to get through the first inning Tuesday, getting tagged for six runs and seven hits in Tuesday's 16-9 loss to Houston. That came five days after the right-hander surrendered six runs and two homers in six innings of an 8-2 defeat at Oakland.
"In reviewing the video, a lot of pitches in the center of the plate," pitching coach Carl Willis told the team's official website after Tuesday's defeat. "I think we saw in spring training a little better command. I don't think it's anything mechanical as much as I think it's his first couple major league starts, him being maybe a little more intense.
"Basic things. Nothing earth-shattering. He still needs to get his feet on the ground a little bit."
|April 11, 2013||Justin Miller||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 07, 2013||Matt Harrison||15-Day DL||Inflamed nerve in lower back|
|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||Colby Lewis||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 12, 2013||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Fractured finger|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|April 10, 2013||Michael Saunders||Day-to-Day||Sprained right shoulder|
|March 25, 2013||Josh Kinney||60-Day DL||Stress reaction, left shoulder|
|March 19, 2013||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Stiffness in neck|
SEATTLE (AP) -- Brandon Maurer shook the nerves, went back to relying on his primary pitches and finally displayed why the Seattle Mariners felt the 22-year-old was ready to make the jump from Double-A to the majors.
The result was a celebratory shower that left the rookie shivering.
"He's going through another first right now," Seattle manager Eric Wedge noted as cheers emerged from the clubhouse.
Dustin Ackley snapped a sixth-inning tie with his first RBI of the season, Maurer rebounded from a horrible start to throw six strong innings for his first career victory and the Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 on Sunday.
Raul Ibanez added a solo homer as Seattle salvaged a split of the four-game series thanks largely to Maurer (1-2) finally showing the promise he displayed in spring training that earned him a spot in the rotation.
"He was much more in control today. More at ease, more comfortable out there and obviously his stuff played out," Wedge said. "He's going through a lot of firsts as everybody does when they get to the big leagues, especially for a starting pitcher.
"He was noticeably different I felt like out there today."
In his first home start last Tuesday against Houston, Maurer recorded just two outs and gave up six earned runs. It was about as horrible a home debut as could be imagined for the rookie. But his recovery on Sunday was impressive, allowing five hits and only two runs before turning it over to the bullpen. Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Maurer showed his youth and inexperience in his first two starts. He got caught up in the moment both in his first start in Oakland and his first home start against the Astros. But Seattle continued to believe in Maurer's stuff to the point that newly acquired starter Aaron Harang took the rotation spot of Blake Beavan and not Maurer.
Maurer backed up that belief with the finest performance of his young career. He struck out five and walked only one. And when Texas did get to him for runs - in the second and fifth innings - Maurer immediately responded with 1-2-3 innings the next time out.
"To be honest the game plan was just to throw my game and not look too much into hot zones and cold zones for hitters," Maurer said. "Get back to the basics."
Texas took the lead in the fifth scoring twice with two outs. Leury Garcia hit a one-out triple off the top of the wall in deep right-center, but was cut down trying to score on Elvis Andrus ' grounder to second. Craig Gentry was hit by a pitch and Lance Berkman ripped an RBI single on a full-count pitch to score Andrus. Gentry advanced to third on Berkman's hit and score the go-ahead run when Seattle catcher Jesus Montero couldn't handle Maurer's tailing fastball and it went all the way to the backstop for a passed ball.
Texas starter Nick Tepesch (1-1) went 5 2-3 innings in his second career start, but could not get through the sixth holding the lead. After striking out Justin Smoak to open the sixth, Kyle Seager hit his second double of the game - he lined an RBI double in the second. Montero followed with a broken-bat single that dropped softly into shallow right field and allowed Seager to score the tying run. The throw home was wide and Montero was able to advance to second.
That proved large when Ackley - hitting just .108 entering the day - dribbled a single back up the middle, scoring Montero.
"I think you can see the hits were capable of getting in bigger situations and I think that's all we've been away from winning ball games lately is one hit or two hits. Today we showed that we can do that," Ackley said.
Texas threatened in the seventh after Mitch Moreland walked against reliever Bobby LaFromboise and advanced to second on Garcia's sacrifice bunt. Stephen Pryor took over and struck out Andrus and Gentry to end the threat.
Pryor walked Adrian Beltre in the eighth and left with two outs after straining a latissimus muscle. Oliver Perez gave up a bloop single to David Murphy to put runners on the corners, but Geovany Soto popped out to end the inning.
"Our pitching staff has done a great job as a whole. They've kept us in ball games and helped us get off to a pretty good start," Murphy said. "Our offensive definitely needs to get in gear sooner than later."
NOTES: Rangers manager Ron Washington said Berkman will probably be used in a pinch-hitting role the next three games with Texas beginning interleague play at the Chicago Cubs . ... Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez is still bothered by tightness in his legs and was out of the lineup. Seattle manager Eric Wedge is hopeful Gutierrez and OF Michael Morse (finger) could be ready to play on Tuesday. ... Seattle is off on Monday, the last team in baseball to get a day off. The Mariners' reward is 16 straight games after the day off.