Jered Weaver has won 120 games and has established himself as one of the better pitchers in the game. Nick Martinez is a rookie going for career win No. 2.
But, on Saturday night, Martinez matched and even outshined Weaver for most of the night. He had a perfect game going through five innings and went on to hold the Angels to two runs over seven-plus innings.
It wasn’t enough to carry the Rangers to a victory, though. Instead, Martinez had to watch with the rest of his teammates as the Angels celebrated a 3-2 walk-off victory in the 10th inning.
Josh Hamilton raced home from first base on a double by Howie Kendrick, as the Rangers lost their fourth straight. But the loss shouldn’t overshadow Martinez’s best start to date.
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“A lot of things to take from this,” Martinez said. “A good one to keep rolling and try to get in a groove. I was able to go out and attack with my fastball. I proved to myself if I can command my fastball, I can pitch up here.”
Martinez retired the first 15 batters he faced, including the first seven on fly outs. He worked quickly and efficiently those five innings, needing only 50 pitches to get through them.
But, in the sixth, Hank Conger won a six-pitch at-bat to start the inning, lining a double to left. Conger then moved to third on a groundout by David Freese and scored on a grounder to first by Efren Navarro to tie the game at 1-1.
Martinez retired six of the next seven before giving up a solo homer to C.J. Cron to start the eighth. Martinez felt he threw a good fastball up and in to Cron, who turned on it and lofted it into the left-field seats just past the out-stretched glove of Shin-Soo Choo.
“Good pitch, just better hitting I guess,” Martinez said.
Martinez gave up a single to Conger in the next at-bat to end his night. He allowed two runs on three hits with one walk and three strikeouts over his 97-pitch outing.
“I thought he was great,” manager Ron Washington said. “It was a great experience for him.”
Cron’s homer gave the Angels a 2-1 lead, but the Rangers tied it back up in the ninth. Choo, batting .138 in his first 17 games this month, came through with a solo home run to center off Kevin Jespen.
It marked the American League-leading 12th blown save by the Angels this season and it seemed to put momentum back on the Rangers’ side.
Neal Cotts, who pitched the Rangers out of Martinez’s eighth-inning jam, threw a perfect ninth to force extra innings. He came back out for the 10th for the lefty-lefty matchup against Hamilton, who reached on an infield single.
Jason Frasor entered and had a lengthy at-bat with Kendrick, who eventually won it and the game by doubling to left-center field.
Washington had Joakim Soria warming, but was only going to his closer if the Rangers took the lead.
“That’s my closer,” Washington said. “He’s not a two-inning guy. I wasn’t tempted.
“We put ourselves in position, we just didn’t’ come up with what we needed to come up with.”