Good hitting has been the Texas Rangers' calling card over the past several years, but the success of the pitching staff may be signaling a change for 2013.
The Rangers look for another strong effort on the mound from rookie Nick Tepesch on Sunday when they attempt to take three of four from the light-hitting Seattle Mariners.Texas (8-4) has reached the postseason three years in a row on the strength of its bats, which led the majors in that span with a .277 average while ranking among the leaders with 572 homers and 5.0 runs per game.Over the same stretch, the Rangers had a 3.90 ERA.This season, the staff is leading the way, leading the AL in ERA (2.80) and opponent batting average (.214). The offense, meanwhile, is producing a pedestrian .256 average and 3.8 runs per game."It's been like that. We haven't been swinging the bat the way we've wanted lately," said Adrian Beltre, hitting .239 after finishing third in the AL last season at .321. "The key to us has been the pitching staff keeping us in the game. ... We hang around for a couple innings, then we score one or two and that's it, that's all we need."That's been the recipe during this series, as Texas has won two of three while outscoring Seattle 8-7 behind a .222 average. The Rangers bullpen has allowed one run in 11 innings.While three relievers held the Mariners to two hits in four scoreless innings after Alexei Ogando went the first five, Beltre and Elvis Andrus came through with RBI singles in the eighth in Saturday's 3-1 win.Tepesch, 24, is looking to build on a dazzling major league debut.The right-hander yielded one run and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of Tuesday's 6-1 win over Tampa Bay. He earned the fifth spot in the rotation out of spring training, while Colby Lewis recovers from elbow surgery."Tremendous makeup," manager Ron Washington said. "Trusts his stuff, knows what he's capable of doing. Never gets outside of himself. Those are the traits we saw in spring training."Tepesch may be in for another strong performance since Seattle (5-8) is hitting .220, including .188 with runners in scoring position over the last four games.The Mariners, however, may have Franklin Gutierrez back in the lineup after tightness in his right groin relegated him to the bench for the last two games. The center fielder leads Seattle with 10 RBIs and has a .351 average over his last 10 meetings with Texas.Tepesch will be opposed by another starter who hadn't pitched in the majors until this year, but Brandon Maurer (0-2, 16.20 ERA) has not gotten off to such a good start following an impressive spring training for the Mariners.Maurer failed to get through the first inning Tuesday, getting tagged for six runs and seven hits in Tuesday's 16-9 loss to Houston. That came five days after the right-hander surrendered six runs and two homers in six innings of an 8-2 defeat at Oakland."In reviewing the video, a lot of pitches in the center of the plate," pitching coach Carl Willis told the team's official website after Tuesday's defeat. "I think we saw in spring training a little better command. I don't think it's anything mechanical as much as I think it's his first couple major league starts, him being maybe a little more intense."Basic things. Nothing earth-shattering. He still needs to get his feet on the ground a little bit."