Rays-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Tuesday night's meeting between the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays in Arlington may have an air of controversy hanging over it after the way the series opener ended.

Texas will look for its sixth win in seven games while Tampa Bay hopes to shake off a bad call and avoid a third straight defeat.

The Rangers claimed a 5-4 victory Monday on Joe Nathan's 300th save, but the last out came with plenty of dissent. On a 3-2 count, Ben Zobrist headed to first base after a pitch from Nathan that appeared to be well outside the strike zone but ended up getting called a third strike to end the game.

Zobrist was in disbelief, then Rays manager Joe Maddon gave home plate umpire Marty Foster and the rest of the crew his thoughts on the call. He argued with them well after the game closed - with the potential tying run on base for Tampa Bay.

Even Foster expressed regret.

"Had I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn't call that pitch a strike," Foster said.

Maddon likely won't face disciplinary action, according to crew chief Tim Welke, though he had showed no restraint in vocalizing his disagreement with the call.

"It just can't happen in a Major League Baseball game," Maddon said, reiterating the sentiment of a tweet he also sent following the game.

Meanwhile, Texas (5-2) will look to carry its recent home-run onslaught into Tuesday. After the Rangers connected on three homers in each of their previous two games against the Angels, A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland each provided one Monday.

Pierzynski is 8 for 15 in his last four games and became the seventh player to homer in the first seven games for Texas, which had only home run through its first three contests.

With previous success against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez - formerly known as Fausto Carmona - the Rangers will try to tee off against him once more. Nelson Cruz is 5 for 16 against Hernandez with three home runs, while David Murphy is 7 for 14 and Elvis Andrus 5 for 14.

Hernandez has lost his last five decisions versus the Rangers and owns a 2-8 record in 12 career starts against them with a 5.37 ERA. He yielded four runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 6-3 loss to Baltimore on Thursday.

Though Tampa Bay's bid for a road win Monday ended with Zobrist at the dish, things have mostly gone well for him this season. Zobrist, whose career-high batting average was .297 in 2009, is 10 for 25 (.400) with seven RBIs for the Rays (3-4).

Zobrist and the rest of the order will look to ruin Rangers starter Nick Tepesch's big-league debut. Tepesch won the fifth spot in Texas' rotation out of spring training, but the team elected to skip his first start due to an off day Thursday.

However, Tepesch did throw on his normal rest that day for Triple-A Round Rock, surrendering five hits and an unearned run over five innings. He was 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA in 18 innings this spring.

"Nick has impressed," general manager Jon Daniels told the club's official website. "We knew he was a strike thrower and had a four-pitch mix, but we were really impressed with the way he handled situations and the way he handled adversity. He earned it."

Evan Longoria is hitting .375 with five home runs in his last 10 games against the Rangers, including a 3-for-3 performance Monday.