SEATTLE -- The Rangers may be beat up and struggling to stay above .500 but they can still find a way to beat Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
They needed a shutout to do that on Friday night, but that's another strange aspect to the Rangers' bizarre season. They entered the day sitting last in the American League in ERA despite having the most shutouts by any pitching staff.
They added No. 13 on Friday night as Nick Tepesch and three relievers combined to outlast Hernandez for a 1-0 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. The two sides were scoreless until the ninth when Elvis Andrus' speed helped the Rangers manufacture the one run it took to beat Hernandez.
"When you face the best one and you beat the best one, after the game it's a nice feeling," Andrus said. "He's always tough, every time we face him. He's one of the top pitchers and showed it again tonight, but Tepesch did a tremendous job and the bullpen did a great job, they gave us a chance to score."
Hernandez had a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings going before the Rangers scored on him in the ninth. He is now 0-5 with a 5.18 ERA in his last eight starts against the Rangers and his 21 career losses against them are the most ever by an opponent.
"They're tough, real tough," Hernandez said. "I did good, but it was still a lousy game."
"He's good, as always," said Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who drove in the only run with a weak ground ball. "Today he had every pitch working. When he got me out all three times, that means he was pretty good. He was Felix, man. He competes, and today he had every pitch working and there weren't many pitches he left over the heart of the plate. We just got enough to beat him."
That's because of Tepesch and relievers Jason Frasor, Shawn Tolleson and Joakim Soria. They combined to hold the Mariners to two hits and two walks while striking out nine. Tepesch didn't get the win but he did give the Rangers 6 1/3 scoreless innings with what he said was the best sinker he's had all year.
"I was able to command it," Tepesch said. "When I can command it and it's as good as it was tonight, good things are going to happen."
Tepesch took a two-hit shutout into the seventh before he walked Kyle Seager to lead off the inning. Robinson Cano forced Seager with a roller back to the mound but Morrison drew another walk. Manager Ron Washington then brought in Frasor, who bailed the Rangers out of the inning by striking out Endy Chavez and Dustin Ackley.
"I just closed my eyes and fired it in there and missed their bats," Frasor said. "I'll take it."
Tolleson set the side down in order in the eighth, putting himself in position to get the win when the Rangers finally broke through in the ninth. Hernandez had a three-hit shutout going into the ninth before Andrus singled with one out.
That brought up Shin-Soo Choo, who took two straight balls to start the at-bat. With the count 2-0, Andrus stole second. Choo then worked the count full. Andrus broke again on the next pitch, which Choo took for ball four, and stole third without a throw.
"I was locked in on the hitter," Hernandez said. "He knew it and he took that base."
"That's part of his game and it showed up at the right time," Washington said. "If he gets thrown out, he gets thrown out. But he's one of the guys capable of doing that."
After Fernando Rodney replaced Hernandez, Beltre hit a grounder to shortstop Brad Miller. The Mariners tried to turn two but Choo slid hard into Cano and his throw to first got past first baseman Morrison, allowing the run to score.
"With runners at first and third, that's all I'm thinking about, breaking up the double play," Choo said.
"That's a good, hard play," Beltre said. "You're supposed to do that to make it hard on the second baseman. That's probably the reason he threw it away."
Soria set down the Mariners in order in the ninth. The two teams were a combined 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. But on a night when Tepesch had to go up against one of the best pitchers in the league, the Rangers were able to once again find a way to win.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.