WASHINGTON -- The first Rangers pitcher to bat on Saturday afternoon was Nick Martinez. That right there underscores the short, rough start Nick Tepesch had for the Rangers at Nationals Park.
Tepesch wasn't able to stay around long enough to bat in the third inning and manager Ron Washington sent a pitcher up to pinch-hit for him, hoping to save his legitimate bench pieces for later in the game.
Tepesch lasted just two innings, 14 batters and 62 pitches as the Rangers fell for the second straight day with a 10-2 loss to the Nationals. The Rangers are now 6-4 on a 11-game road trip that comes to an end on Sunday in the District of Columbia.
"Tepesch just didn't have it today," Washington said. "He got in some deep counts and by the time he got through the second inning, I felt he had enough."
This was the shortest start by a Rangers pitcher since Matt Harrison left his May 13 start against the Astros with two outs in the second inning because of back trouble. Texas starters are averaging 5.61 innings per game, the second lowest in the American League.
Since Martin Perez threw his second shutout against Oakland on April 23, Rangers starters are 10-14 with a 5.27 ERA in their last 33 games. Their starters have pitched fewer than six innings in 20 of those games.
"I was just falling behind hitters and not throwing quality strikes," Tepesch said. "It's frustrating. I just didn't help myself out falling behind hitters. You're not going to win games falling behind hitters and letting pitches leak over the middle of the plate."
Nationals starter Doug Fister earned the victory by holding the Rangers to two runs over six innings. He is 4-4 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 career starts against Texas.
"He has some experience against these guys that the rest of our guys don't potentially have," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "He had a really good game plan on how to attack them."
Tepesch allowed five runs, as nine of 14 batters reached base on seven hits, including two home runs, and two walks. His best toss was picking off Denard Span after a leadoff walk in the first inning.
But Tepesch followed that by giving up a home run to Anthony Rendon, and the Nationals had a 1-0 lead two batters into the game. Tepesch gave up four more runs in a 39-pitch second inning that started with a Nate McLouth groundout to first base.
Danny Espinosa then doubled to deep left-center and Jose Lobaton followed with his second home run of the season. Tepesch got Fister to fly out, but Span singled to right and Rendon beat out a grounder that ticked off third baseman Adrian Beltre's glove for an infield single. Jayson Werth then doubled down the left-field line scoring one run, and Rendon came around as well when Shin-Soo Choo had trouble coming up with the ball for an error.
After a walk to Adam LaRoche, Tepesch got out of the inning by getting Ian Desmond to ground out. But when Tepesch's turn came to bat in the top of the third, Washington sent up Martinez to pinch-hit. Martinez, who was an infielder at Fordham University, grounded out. He is the sixth Rangers pitcher to be used as a pinch-hitter since the designated hitter was adopted in 1973, and the first since Ron Mahay in 2004.
"I just wasn't ready to start using up my bench right there," Washington said. "I didn't feel we were totally out of the game and I wasn't ready to use my players, so I used Nick right there."
Scott Baker took over in the third inning. Pitching for the third time in nine days, Baker at least was able to keep the Rangers from depleting their bullpen by pitching five innings. He allowed a three-run home run to LaRoche and a two-run shot to Scott Hairston. During those nine days, Baker has thrown 252 pitches over 17 innings.
"He certainly gave us what we needed," Washington said.
"My feeling is having battled health issues in the past, you can either do it or you can't," Baker said. "I've felt really good through the whole process, so I can't complain about not being physically able to go out there and keep the score where it is or give the team a chance 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.