On a night Elvis Andrus opened on the bench to rest his mind more than his body, the Texas Rangers started a pair of middle infielders who both began the season at Double A and are a combined 41 years old.
The Rangers’ 23-year-old starting pitcher was ticketed for Double A until the rotation ran out of healthy bodies, but spent a couple weeks in April with Frisco.
That trio — shortstop Luis Sardinas, second baseman Rougned Odor and right-hander Nick Martinez — were part of the conversation each time the past few weeks when manager Ron Washington talked about enduring the growing pains of young players.
But so were many other Rangers who are getting more big-league time than had been originally planned for them entering spring training. For the most part, they’ve shown well.
On Wednesday, Sardinas and Martinez were featured players as the Rangers fell behind early against Baltimore and again saw the bullpen falter in a tie game en route to a 6-5 loss at Globe Life Park.
The Rangers’ injuries have been well-documented, with Alexi Ogando becoming the 18thplayer to hit the disabled list. Because of them, the Rangers will have to overcome the follies of youth.
That’s a heck of thing for a team with playoff hopes.
“I don’t feel good at all,” Sardinas said. “We’re all here to contribute to the win, and I did the contrary. I wanted to help the team win, but the errors cost us two runs and that cost us the game. We’re trying to do the best we can, but not every day goes the way you want it to.”
Adrian Beltre drove in all five Rangers runs with a pair of two-out homers, a two-run blast in the first and a three-run shot in the fifth to erase a 5-2 deficit. Sardinas rallied for singles in his final three at-bats and was the tying run in the ninth when pinch hitter Michael Choice struck out to end it.
But Sardinas’ two fielding errors in the first three innings proved to be the plays that doomed the Rangers. Martinez (1-2) allowed solo homers to Nick Markakis and Chris Davis, and put the first two runners on in the sixth as the Orioles tallied the go-ahead run.
“They’re players. They’re going to make mistakes,” Washington said. “But you can tell they’re not fazed.”
Sardinas, 21, opened the door for an Orioles run in the first inning when Nelson Cruz’s towering pop-up clanged off his glove for a two-out error. Cruz, who reached second on the play, scored as Adam Jones followed with a single to center.
Beltre countered in the Rangers’ first with a two-run homer off the face of the home run porch on a night when balls carried well to right field.
But after the Orioles opened the third with a homer and a double, Sardinas’ throw on a Cruz grounder was too high, and Baltimore would add two more runs in the inning and another with two outs in the fifth on Davis’ homer.
Each Sardinas gaffe led to an unearned run.
“Yes, he dropped a pop-up and made a bad throw, and they ended up scoring some runs,” Washington said. “But he didn’t stop playing.”
Sardinas singled with two outs in the fifth to get the Rangers going. After Mitch Moreland singled off the forearm of pitcher Bud Norris, Beltre connected again to tie it at 5-5.
Martinez, though, opened the sixth by allowing a single and a walk. He jumped on a Caleb Joseph bunt try, cutting down the lead runner at third, and Robinson Chirinos threw out Jonathan Schoop trying to take third.
But Aaron Poreda allowed a single to Markakis in a lefty-lefty battle, and Joseph scored the go-ahead run.
Martinez was better than in his last start, but he allowed four earned runs for the second straight outing. The defense didn’t help.
“That happens, and those guys made a lot of good plays for me,” Martinez said. “I can guarantee that they’re going to save me more than not. It’s part of the game.”
For the Rangers, who have lost four of their past five games, part of the game this season will be enduring the growing pains of young players who have been asked to contribute more than was ever planned entering the season.
“I think tonight was one of those nights,” Washington said.