Rangers starter -- and, whether you like it or not, Resident Ace of the Staff -- Nick Tepesch dealt his third quality start in four outings (with the other being a start with 5.2 shutout innings) Sunday afternoon against Los Angeles.
His final line of seven-plus innings pitched, six hits and two earned runs came despite working into an early jam in the second inning. Four consecutive Angel hitters reached base to load the bases with no outs and one run already home.
Not a situation a pitcher wants to be in, especially against MLB's No. 2 offense in terms of runs and No. 5 offense in terms of team batting average.
But a 'new' Nick Tepesch was able to minimize the damage, escaping the inning with just two runs home, the second coming on a groundout by Kole Cahoun.
'That second inning there it could've really got ugly, and in the past it may have. But that's the new Nick Tepesch,' manager Ron Washington said. 'He's able to slow it down, he was executing pitches all day. He didn't let 'traffic' bother him and he kept us in the ball game.'
Tepesch allowed just two hits and zero runs outside of that second inning. His ERA for the month of August is a nifty 1.88. And he's pitching with what he calls 'more conviction.'
'I've got a better plan of what I want to do before I even step on the mound, versus waiting to see the suggestion from the catcher,' he said.
His manager, who says the evolution of Tepesch began last year, said he sees the 25-year-old focusing on what he needs to do in any given situation -- including having his back against the wall against one of the league's top offenses.
'[He knows] what is going to get him out of that situation with minimal damage,' Washington said.
'I've always tried to kind of pitch to the situation, but maybe being a little more aggressive in those situations,' Tepesch said. 'Instead of trying to not let the guy hit it, try to let him hit it and have him do the work for me.'
That approach has resulted in a more efficient Tepesch of late. Through July 22, Tepesch was averaging over 17 pitches per inning. In his last four outings, that number sits at well under 14 pitches per inning.
Knowing when to shake off pitches is part of the new plan for Tepesch. He goes to the mound with an 'A' pitch and a 'B' pitch in mind, he said, rather than letting his catcher select the pitch. Geovany Soto and Robinson Chirinos getting to know his pitches better has caused the battery mates to be on the same page more often of late, he said.
They say hitting is contagious in this sport, and the Rangers can hope the 'new' Tepesch's pitching is contagious. The club has won each of the last three times Tepesch has taken the rock.
'Any time you can string some good starts together it'll boost your confidence and it's going to get you deeper in games and build off what I've been doing.'