High on the list of Washisms, below “there’s no perfection in baseball” but tied with “do what the game asks you to do,” is the simple but sometimes difficult to execute philosophy of doing “whatever it takes.”
True to Ron Washington’s request, the Texas Rangers have done whatever it takes, or even exceeded his minimum standard, six times in eight games on a season-long road trip that has three more to go.
They did it three times this week at Target Field, nearly four, including coming from behind Thursday for a 5-4 in which they executed with two outs, survived with a struggling rookie on the mound and manufactured a late run to turn back the Minnesota Twins.
The one-run margin might suggest they did just enough, but they had to work awfully hard for their second straight one-run victory before heading off to the nation’s capital for a taste of the National League.
“That was a team effort,” Washington said. “The last six or seven days that we’ve been playing baseball, those guys have had to grind and everybody has been used. That’s the way you play team baseball, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The biggest blow for the Rangers came from Shin-Soo Choo, whose seven-year, $130 million contract suggests that he needs to produce. He did, delivering a two-out bases-loaded double for a 3-0 lead in the second inning.
But the Rangers needed more.
They needed rookie right-hander Nick Martinez to figure out how to keep a big league game close on a day when he wasn’t at his best.
They needed the bottom of their lineup to produce, and it did as speedy center fielder Leonys Martin collected three hits and scored three times, as catcher Robinson Chirinos drove in a run and set up another, and as 20-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor lifted a sacrifice fly just deep enough to plate Martin with the go-ahead run.
Finally, they needed a combination of four relievers from their short-handed bullpen to get the final 10 outs, including Neal Cotts sharing ninth-inning duties with Joakim Soria as the closer worked for a third straight day for the first time this season.
“Those days that you don’t have your best stuff, you’ve just got to find a way to battle, get some outs and keep your team in it,” Martinez said. “We had great defense today, even better offense. It was a great team win today.”
The Rangers scored three times in the second but were a strike away from not getting anything after loading the bases with no outs after singles by Alex Rios and Michael Choice and a walk to Martin.
Choo, though, came through after Samuel Deduno had retired Chirinos and Odor. Choo sliced a double into the left-field corner that cleared the bases.
Martinez was lucky to not give any of it back in the Twins’ second after they loaded the bases with no outs. But he made a nice scoop home on a Josmil Pinto tapper in front of the plate, and got out of it as Eduardo Escobar lined into a double play.
But Martinez couldn’t slow the Twins in the third. He allowed four singles, two of them plating runs to cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2. In the fifth, Josh Willingham smashed a two-out, two-run homer 436 feet to give Minnesota the lead at 4-3.
The Rangers had a quick answer, though, as Martin legged out a double with one out in the sixth and came home as the next batter, Chirinos, dropped a single into left field for a 4-4 tie.
Martinez, who earned his first career victory Saturday, got two outs in the sixth before giving way to Alexi Ogando (2-2). Martinez allowed nine hits and two walks while throwing a career-high 108 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.
The game stayed tied until the eighth, when Martin opened with a double, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Chirinos and scored on a shallow fly ball to right-center field by Odor to break the tie.
Martin used his terrific speed three times — to score from first on Choo’s double, to just beat Oswaldo Arcia’s throw from right field on the sixth-inning double, and to beat the throw home on Odor’s sacrifice fly.
“I just try to get on base and make something happen,” Martin said. “It was a tied game in the eighth inning, and in that situation you’ve got to do it. They’ve got to make a perfect throw to throw me out in that situation.”
After Jason Frasor worked the eighth, Cotts came out of the bullpen for a lefty-lefty matchup with Joe Mauer, who grounded out. Soria entered and retired Trevor Plouffe on a fly ball to the warning track and, after Arcia singled, caught Willingham looking to end it.
Soria was the last of several pieces who contributed to the Rangers’ seventh win in their past nine games. It was a team win. The Rangers, true to their manager’s credo, did what it takes win a game Thursday.
But they worked awfully hard to do it.
“I just want us to stay consistent and keep playing good baseball,” Washington said. “Each day and each game you play is different. You have to do what you have to do and do whatever the game dictates you do, and that’s exactly what we did.”