ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas starter Nick Tepesch proved why he won the fifth and final position in the rotation Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Tepesch (1-0) starred in his big-league debut, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1, the Rangers' third consecutive victory.
"It means a lot," Tepesch said. "It's what I've been working for since I've been playing this game. But there is still a lot of hard work to go."
The right-hander allowed one run on four hits in 7 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five, setting down 16 consecutive batters during a stretch from the third to eighth innings.
A large part of Tepesch's success came on limiting balls in the air. Just three Tampa Bay swings sent the ball into the air, while the Rays grounded out 15 times against him, including five to first baseman Mitch Moreland.
"He showed the maturity of a young guy as a pitcher," Texas Rangers Manager Ron Washington said. "He kept trusting the things that A.J. [Pierzynski] was putting down and kept executing pitches. He had great composure."
Tepesch departed in the eighth after allowing his first hit out of the infield since the second, but reliever Robbie Ross cleaned up with back-to-back outs. Jason Frasor pitched a scoreless ninth to seal Texas' win.
Lance Berkman notched his second three-hit game of 2013 after going 3-4 on Tuesday with two RBI. Leonys Martin crossed the plate three times on a two-for-three outing, with two lead-off singles.
"He has been swinging the bat but hasn't been having much luck," Washington said. "I never doubted the fact that martin can swing. He is showing that his bat is coming together also. It's just a matter of time."
The Rays' only offense against Tepesch came in the third inning. Desmond Jennings opened up with a leadoff double, with the ball bouncing off the warning track and into the center field wall. Jennings advanced to third on a grounder and came into score on Ben Zobrist's softly hit groundout to Moreland.
"I felt like I made a good adjustment," Tepesch said of his success after the second. "It was definitely a confidence boost. I feel like early on I was trying to make too good of pitches instead of quality pitches."
Texas countered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Ian Kinsler followed up a Martin walk with the Rangers' first hit of the game. Berkman then hit a short fly that fell in shallow right-center, knocking in both runners.
"We have a good offensive team," Berkman said. "We have speed, we have power and we aren't a one dimensional offense. We scored six runs and I don't think we hit a home run."
The Rangers added two runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh, with Elvis Andrus knocking in one in each inning.
Rays starter Roberto Hernandez (0-2) was charged with all six runs, five of them earned, in 6 2/3 innings.
Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday's game that his team had moved on from the controversial ending to Monday night's final pitch, in which Joe Nathan achieved his 300th career save.
"We talked briefly after the game last night," Maddon said. "He knew that the play did not come out as planned. I really respect him a lot for checking in about that. For me, for us, it's over with. I think it shows a lot on his part."
Maddon showed his support after the game by singing the scorecard to congratulate Nathan, despite his feelings about the final call.
"He's a very good umpire, and he's also a very good guy. It's just unfortunate that that would happen with him last night, but it's time to move on."
With the win, the Rangers clinched their third straight series victory to start the season. It's the third consecutive year in which Texas has won its first three series and the fifth time in club history to do so overall.
The Rangers attempt to complete the sweep the Rays on Wednesday afternoon.
NOTES: Texas OF Julio Borbon was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Tepesch. The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release or outright Borbon to the minor leagues. ... Tepesch is the first Ranger to pitch into the eighth inning in his major league debut since John Dettmer on June 16, 1994. ... Tampa Bay RHP Jeff Niemann had an MRI on his right shoulder Tuesday, and he has been scheduled for season-ending surgery Wednesday. ... Rangers starter Matt Harrison is day-to-day with lower back soreness. Harrison left early in Saturday's game, and his scheduled Thursday start against the Seattle Mariners is in jeopardy.