Nick Tepesch and the Rangers’ pitching staff outdueled Seattle Mariners’ ace Felix Hernandez, as the Rangers improbably shut out Seattle 1-0 to start a nine-game road trip.
“King Felix” Hernandez entered the game with an 8-1 record to face Tepesch, who made just his sixth start since being recalled from Triple A in May. Tepesch, who had struggled in recent starts, brought a 4.91 ERA to Seattle, while Hernandez was coming off a 15-strikeout, seven-inning start against Tampa Bay on June 8.
The game remained scoreless through eight full innings, and Hernandez started the top of the ninth in an attempt to hold onto his two-hit shutout. Elvis Andrus smacked a single up the middle off a Hernandez fastball with one out, and stole second to move into scoring position. Andrus then stole third without a throw before the batter Shin-Soo Choo walked, ending Hernandez’s night. The Mariners’ ace left the game without having given up a run, but with two runners on base and one out.
Fernando Rodney, the Mariners’ closer, came in to relieve Hernandez, and induced a potential double-play ground ball from Adrian Beltre, but an error on Robinson Cano allowed Andrus to score from third and Beltre to advance to second, where he was left when Alex Rios grounded out to second.
Neither team had a runner in scoring position through five innings to start the game. Andrus and Alex Rios accounted for the two hits Hernandez allowed in the first few frames, and Seattle catcher Mike Zunino singled in the bottom of the third off Tepesch.
Zunino added the second hit to Tepesch’s tally in the sixth inning, smoking a ground-rule double over the 376-foot sign on the left-center field wall, becoming the first runner in scoring position for either team. He was stranded at third, however, when the next three batters struck out, grounded out, and flew out.
Choo gave the Rangers their first baserunner since the second inning, singling with one out in the top of the seventh. Choo reached second a few pitches later, when a wild pitch to Adrian Beltre allowed him to advance into scoring position, the first Ranger to do so. Alex Rios struck out swinging to end the inning, however, leaving Choo stranded at third.
Tepesch was extremely effective through six full innings, but his night ended after he walked Logan Morrison and Kyle Seager to put two on with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Jason Frasor entered the game for the Rangers, and struck out Endy Chavez and Dustin Ackley to keep the score even at naught.
Hernandez allowed his first walk in the top of the eighth, putting Brad Snyder aboard with no outs to lead off the inning. Robinson Chirinos bunted Snyder into scoring position, but the Rangers stranded him, their fourth runner left in scoring position. Shawn Tolleson pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, giving the Rangers the opportunity to put together the winning run in the top of the ninth.
Joakim Soria came in for the Rangers in the bottom of the ninth with the chance to earn his 14th save of the season, and did just that, striking out James Jones before inducing gounders from Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano to end the game.
Friday was the American League-leading 13th shutout of the season for Texas.
The Rangers continue their series with the Mariners Saturday night in another 9:10 p.m. first pitch.