With their lineup locked in and their pitchers on a roll, the Texas Rangers are clicking on all cylinders.
The Rangers try to continue their surge as they open a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night at Target Field.
After sweeping Seattle over the weekend, Texas (14-7) kicked off this seven-game trip by taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels . Yu Darvish struck out 11 over six dominant innings while Nelson Cruz and Lance Berkman both homered and combined for seven RBIs in Wednesday's 11-3 win.
The Rangers have gone 18 for 57 with runners in scoring position and outscored opponents 45-17 during their 5-1 run. They've posted a 2.28 ERA and struck out 61 over 55 1-3 innings over that stretch, too.
Cruz has come up especially big over the last seven games, going 9 for 26 with four homers and 12 RBIs.
While things have gone the Rangers way of late, manager Ron Washington appears somewhat concerned about the short turnaround heading into Thursday.
"You just try to catch a nap on the plane," he told MLB's official website. "It's a tough trip with the time change but what are you going to do? It's the schedule, you have to play it. You get in, sleep as long as you can, get up, go to the ballpark and play baseball."
The Rangers have hit .296 in taking nine of 11 from the Twins (9-8), including a three-game sweep in Minnesota last April 13-15.
After beating Miami 4-3 earlier in the day, the Twins saw their five-game winning streak snapped with an 8-5 loss in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader.
Joe Mauer , though, stayed hot with two hits and an RBI, raising his average to .366. The five-time All-Star is batting .444 with two homers and eight RBIs over his last 11 games.
"I've seen him hit his whole career, so we've seen him do this," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We keep saying it's incredible to do this at this level, and it is. He can just rack up those hits, and it's incredible, and that'll never change. He's just an incredible hitter."
Mauer, though, is a career .243 hitter versus Texas - his lowest mark against any AL team aside from Houston, which joined the league this season. He's 5 for 30 over his last nine home matchups in the series.
The Twins look to get back on track behind Vance Worley (0-2, 7.11 ERA), who finally showed signs of coming around Saturday in a 2-1, 10-inning road win over the Chicago White Sox. The right-hander allowed one run and five hits and struck out seven in as many innings.
"I had it figured out," Worley said. "I pitched. It wasn't me trying to overdo anything out there. It was just going after hitters and trusting my mechanics. Thus (it) made pitching a little easier. I was able to command both sides of the plate today and everything broke the way I wanted it to and (I got) better results."
The Rangers counter with rookie Nick Tepesch (1-1, 3.07), who was forced to leave Saturday's 5-0 win over Seattle in the second inning after getting hit by a line drive just above the wrist. The right-hander, though, checked out OK and should be good to go.
"It's kind of sore, but not too bad," he said. "It feels pretty good other than being a little stiff."
In his only road start, Tepesch allowed four runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss at Seattle on April 14.
|April 20, 2013||Nick Tepesch||Day-to-Day||Left game - right arm bruise|
|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|
|April 16, 2013||Wilkin Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Back contusion|
|April 16, 2013||Darin Mastroianni||15-Day DL||Stress reaction in left ankle|
|March 30, 2013||Cole De Vries||15-Day DL||Right forearm strain|
|March 24, 2013||Tim Wood||15-Day DL||Right rotator cuff strain|
|March 22, 2013||Scott Diamond||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Anthony Swarzak||15-Day DL||Fractured ribs|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A night after scoring a season-high nine runs in one inning, the bleary-eyed Texas Rangers struggled to push across two all night in Minnesota following a late-night, cross-country flight.
It was more than enough run support for well-rested rookie starter Nick Tepesch .
Tepesch, who flew ahead of the team the night before to get a good night's sleep, pitched six strong innings for his second win to lead the first-place Rangers over the Twins 2-1 on Thursday night.
The 24-year-old righty cruised through Minnesota's lineup for most of the night. He held Joe Mauer , Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau to a combined 2 for 11. Mauer was held hitless for only the fourth time this season.
"Their two, three, four hitters are about the best you'll see in Major League Baseball," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Going through them three times, he did a good job."
Tepesch (2-1) allowed five hits in 6 2-3 innings. He shut the Twins out through six before Willingham homered in the seventh inning to make it 2-1. Tepesch had allowed only two baserunners up to that point and showed no lingering effects from taking a liner off his right forearm in his previous start against Seattle last weekend.
"I didn't feel like I was extra out of ordinary," Tepesch said. "I felt like I commanded my pitches pretty well, and I felt like I was pretty good tonight."
Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz each drove in runs, and Ian Kinsler went 3 for 5 with a double to help the Rangers win for the sixth time in seven games.
Minnesota starter Vance Worley (0-3) allowed two runs and six hits in five innings. Minnesota tried to cobble together two late rallies, but Willingham hit into a bases-loaded double play in the eighth, and Ryan Doumit 's long fly ball with one on and two out in the ninth fell just short in left field.
"We were one hit away," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Rangers landed in the Twin Cities at 6 a.m. on Thursday and didn't look nearly as good against Worley as they did the night before against the Angels in Los Angeles.
They didn't need to with Tepesch retiring the first 12 batters he faced before Morneau singled up the middle to lead off the fifth.
"The kid had a live fastball, a live arm," Gardenhire said. "The ball was jumping on our hitters. He was cutting it and had a nice little breaking ball."
The Twins finally got to Tepesch in the seventh when Willingham drove a fastball 351 feet into the left-field seats. Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe each followed with two-out singles to chase Tepesch. Robbie Ross relieved to get Doumit on a groundout to end the inning.
Tanner Scheppers induced Willingham into his eighth-inning double play, and Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his seventh save in as many chances.
Cruz, who has RBIs in five-straight games, drove in his club-leading 18th run of the season in the second on a single that scored Adrian Beltre from third. Andrus made it 2-0 in the fifth with a run-scoring double.
"Two was enough," Cruz said.
NOTES: Tepesch has not walked a batter since walking three in the second inning of his debut on April 9. ... Andrus has no errors in his last 80 chances, the longest streak of any shortstop in the AL. ... Worley hasn't won a start since Aug. 1 of last season, when he played for Philadelphia. ... The Rangers pitching staff has allowed two runs or less in nine of 21 games. ... Twins CF Aaron Hicks is hitting just .086, but has reached base in seven straight games. ... The Rangers will try for their third-straight win on Friday night when they send right-hander Justin Grimm (1-0) to the mound. Scott Diamond (1-1) will pitch for the Twins.