The Rangers look for a ninth win in 10 games and struggling starter Nick Tepesch will try to extend the Reds’ offensive woes in Saturday night’s matchup in Arlington.
Texas starters are 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA over the last nine games. The Rangers (47-33) have a 2.01 ERA over their last six, winning five times despite scoring more than four runs just once.
Tepesch (3-6, 4.60 ERA) will seek to continue this scoreless run, which includes Thursday’s 2-0 victory over the Yankees and a 4-0 win Friday in the opener of this three-game set. The rookie, however, is 0-3 with a 5.17 ERA in seven outings since beating Houston on May 12.
The right-hander took a step in the right direction Sunday in St. Louis, surrendering one run in 5 2-3 innings in a 2-1 victory at St. Louis.
“That’s what you were working for and I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Tepesch, who has never faced the Reds.
He’ll face a struggling offense that went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position Friday. The Reds (45-35) are losers of three straight and six of seven, batting .215 in that span, and have dropped eight in a row on the road in interleague play dating to 2012.
“We’re not doing anything. It seems like we’re not putting any ABs together. We get a hit, then we make an easy out,” shortstop Zack Cozart said. “They say hitting’s contagious when you’re going well, but it’s not contagious, too, when everybody’s not hitting.”
The anemic offense is a major reason there will be pressure on starter Mike Leake who also will be tasked with providing some innings after Friday’s starter, Johnny Cueto left in the second inning due to tightness in his right upper back muscle.
Leake (7-3, 2.61) is 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his last six road starts. His five-start road win streak ended last Saturday even though he retired the first 17 batters and yielded two runs over eight innings at Arizona, with closer Aroldis Chapman failing to protect a ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 loss.
Leake is 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA in nine interleague starts, including 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three on the road. The right-hander has never faced the Rangers, and the only Texas hitters he has faced are backup catcher Geovany Soto (1 for 12 against him) and Lance Berkman (1 for 11).
It’s unclear if Berkman will be available. He sat out Friday with a sore right knee suffered from slipping on the team plane the previous day.
“Before I knew it, I was on my back kind of like a hurdler’s stretch,” Berkman told the Rangers’ official website. “That’s how I ended up. Thank goodness I had a hold of the hand rail or else I might’ve broken my neck, because I could’ve tumbled down the stairs.”
Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips had two hits in his return to the lineup Friday after missing two games due to paternity leave.