They say baseball is a game of inches and that cliche was on full display tonight.
Rays' starter Roberto Hernandez pitched well -- much better than his line score will suggest. The right hander went 6.2 innings, gave up five earned runs, walked two and struck out four. Of the eight hits he allowed only one went for extra bases, and he induced 11 groundouts.
After the Rays had scored in the top of the third inning, the Rangers had two on and two outs with Lance Berkman at the plate. Berkman lifted a bloop single into shallow center between Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings, allowing both runners to come around to score. In the sixth inning Leonys Martin made weak contact but hit a flare into left field for a single and would eventually score when Elvis Andrus shot a single up the middle, just out of the reach of Yunel Escobar. Andrus, after stealing second, would advance to third after a Lance Berkman liner to left-center dropped for a single as Matt Joyce looked to take a bad route to the ball, then missed it on his dive attempt. Adrian Beltre would ground out to first a batter later allowing Andrus to score.
The Rangers would score again in the seventh after the usually sure handed James Loney flubbed a ground ball, allowing Craig Gentry to make it home all the way from second.
Offensively the Rays did little to help their cause, but the game would have been much closer had a few inches here or there gone in their favor on the defensive end. Rangers' starter Nick Tepesch was the issue for the Rays' offense. Making his major league debut after throwing just 90 innings above Class-A, Tepesch dominated the Rays lineup. The 24-year-old pitched into the eighth inning, allowing just one run and recording 14 groundouts. His fastball was effective all night, but he really confounded the Rays with his curveball, causing a lot of half-swings for strikes or soft ground balls for outs. He worked down in the zone all night and kept the ball away from both lefties and righties, forcing them to chase his slider.
This hasn't been the best start to the road trip, but tomorrow is a new day as Matt Moore toes the rubber. This will be Moore's first start in Texas since he won game one of the 2011 ALDS by throwing seven innings of shutout baseball after having just one career start under his belt. Hopefully he can bring some of that magic back with him.