Using dominant starting pitching to sweep their last series, the Texas Rangers tied for baseball's best record. They'll look to rookie Nick Tepesch on Monday night at Wrigley Field to keep it going as they match up with the Chicago Cubs , who will start Scott Feldman in his first game against his former team.
The game is a makeup of a contest that was rained out April 17, with the teams splitting their two other meetings last month.
The Rangers (20-11) saw Yu Darvish strike out 14 on Sunday and capped a three-game sweep of Boston on Adrian Beltre 's two-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win. That left Texas tied with the Red Sox and St. Louis for the majors' best record.
"We showed a lot of heart right there," said Elvis Andrus , who scored the winning run after delivering a two-out single. "That shows for us how good we are right now."
Darvish's performance followed strong outings from Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando as the three starters limited the potent Red Sox, who average 4.9 runs, to four runs over 21 innings while striking out 27. Texas' rotation owns a 3.15 ERA this season that ranks near the top in baseball.
Tepesch (2-2, 3.54 ERA) didn't post an impressive line his last time out as he was charged with five runs and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to the White Sox. But manager Ron Washington blamed himself for leaving Tepesch in to face one batter too many, with Alejandro De Aza connecting for a two-run homer off him with two outs in the seventh. The game was tied 2-2 entering that inning.
The right-hander had yielded six runs in 21 1-3 innings before that game.
The Cubs (11-20) counter with Feldman (2-3, 3.34), who spent his first eight seasons with Texas before signing a free-agent deal with Chicago in November.
"I've seen a lot of those guys for a lot of years, and they've seen me for a lot of years, so it's not going to be a big thing of trying to trick everybody," Feldman told MLB's official website.
The righty comes off one of his best performances, throwing a three-hitter for his first career complete game in a 6-2 win over San Diego on Wednesday.
"He was as good as anyone I've seen all year," Padres third baseman Chase Headley said of Feldman, who struck out a career-high 12 batters.
As good as Feldman was his last time out, the pitchers who would come after him don't appear imposing. Chicago relievers have an 8.44 ERA during the team's current five-game losing streak, including two blown saves to run their season total to eight.
The bullpen gave up three runs over four innings in a 7-4 home loss to Cincinnati on Sunday.
"We're obviously going through a tough stretch right now," said reliever Shawn Camp , who surrendered two runs to push his ERA to 7.15. "We've got to pick it up a little bit. It can get ugly real fast. It's May. It's time for us to step up."
Texas owns a 6-5 advantage in the all-time series.
|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 14, 2013||Steve Clevenger||60-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|April 13, 2013||Steve Clevenger||Day-to-Day||Left oblique injury|
|April 13, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|March 31, 2013||Darwin Barney||15-Day DL||Left knee laceration|
|March 31, 2013||Scott Baker||60-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|March 31, 2013||Darwin Barney||15-Day DL||Left knee laceration|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Facing his former team for the first time, Scott Feldman had one of the best starts of his major league career.
Feldman threw seven scoreless innings before leaving with a cramp in his pitching hand, and the Chicago Cubs came within three outs of their first shutout since August in a 9-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
"I tried to just relax out there and everything, but obviously I know a lot of those guys and I've got a lot of respect for them," Feldman said. "I had a great seven or eight years over there and made some good friends. When we're not playing against them I hope they do good. But on a night like tonight, definitely want to try to get them out."
Feldman (3-3) has won three straight starts after losing his first three with the Cubs. He signed a $6 million, one-year contract with Chicago during the offseason after going 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA in parts of eight seasons with Texas.
He allowed two hits, struck out three and walked one, and also hit an RBI single in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. In Feldman's previous start, he pitched a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 6-2 win over San Diego last Wednesday.
"He was really, really good again," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "And against a really good offense, too."
After he threw a 2-0 pitch in the eighth to David Murphy , Feldman was shaking his right hand and was checked on the mound by Cubs manager Dale Sveum and assistant trainer Ed Halbur, then replaced by James Russell .
Feldman began to feel the cramp during his warmup tosses and tried to get through the inning. Two pitches in, he knew his night was over.
"I think I had a lot of pitches anyway," said Feldman, who had thrown 104, "so I was going to need some first-pitch outs maybe."
Texas scored a pair of unearned runs in the ninth after a throwing error by third baseman Luis Valbuena . The Cubs have gone 68 games without a shutout since beating Colorado 5-0 on Aug. 26, their longest streak since going 75 games in a row without shutouts from May 15 until Aug. 6, 1999, according to STATS.
Anthony Rizzo had three hits, four RBIs and his ninth home run, and Starlin Castro scored three runs for the Cubs, who scored five times with two outs in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead. Chicago, last in the NL Central at 12-20, set season highs for runs and victory margin.
"I think we're a lot better team than what our record shows, and I think a lot of people would agree with us," Rizzo said. "We've lost a lot of heartbreakers so far, but today definitely feels good and everyone should feel happy about it."
The Rangers' Nick Tepesch (2-3) lost his second straight start, allowing six runs - five earned - six hits and four walks in four innings.
"He was good tonight as far as our offense was concerned," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We couldn't do anything with him."
Coming off a three-game sweep of Boston, Texas returned to Wrigley Field to make up an April 17 rainout between Chicago's series against Cincinnati and St. Louis. The Cubs are hosting three teams in three days for the first time since Aug. 21-23, 1960.
Chicago went ahead with an unearned run in the first after David DeJesus singled, stole second and continued to third when the throw by former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto bounced into center field for an error. DeJesus scored when Alfonso Soriano beat shortstop Elvis Andrus ' relay throw and avoided what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Feldman singled to spark a five-run fourth after an intentional walk to walked Darwin Barney , who was hitless in his previous 17 at-bats.
"I just didn't make a good pitch right there," Tepesch said. "That was basically it."
Castro and Rizzo followed with consecutive two-run singles.
Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Derek Lowe . The Rangers scored in the ninth when Andrus doubled leading off against Rafael Dolis and Valbuena's throw on Adrian Beltre 's grounder was well to the home plate side of first base. Soto, who spent parts of eight seasons with the Cubs and won the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year award with Chicago, hit a two-out RBI single. Playing against the Cubs for the first time, he was 2 for 4.
NOTES: Chicago selected the contract of OF Ryan Sweeney from Triple-A Iowa and recalled Dolis. RHP Kameron Loe was designated for assignment and OF Dave Sappelt was optioned to the Pacific Coast League team. ... Cubs pitcher Matt Garza made his second injury rehabilitation start Monday, throwing 54 pitches in 3 1-3 innings for Iowa. Garza, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues this season, is expected to make one more rehab start before Chicago reevaluates his status. ... Rangers pitcher Martin Perez threw 53 pitches in four innings in his first rehab start for Double-A Frisco. Perez hasn't pitched this season after breaking his left wrist March 3. ... Justin Grimm (2-1, 2.28) is expected to start for Texas on Tuesday in Milwaukee against Wily Peralta , while Travis Wood (2-2, 2.50) is scheduled to face the Cardinals' Lance Lynn (5-0, 2.75). ... Rangers C A.J. Pierzynski was given the night off. Lance Berkman , who has been the Rangers' primary designated hitter, also wasn't in the lineup.