The run of starting pitching the Texas Rangers are currently on wouldn’t have been so surprising if predicted early in spring training.
Back then, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland were part of the rotation. Coupled with veterans Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo, the idea that they might string a few solid starts together wasn’t exactly a pipe dream.
But with Darvish and Holland out with injuries, the idea that the Rangers’ rotation, which includes veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, Nick Martinez, and rookie Chi Chi Gonzalez, would string 10 quality starts together seemed improbable, if not entirely unlikely.
But it has happened, for just the second time in Rangers history, and first since Sept. 10-17, 1978.
Martinez held the Minnesota Twins to three runs in seven innings but Texas was unable to hold on for the sweep as the Twins took the series finale 4-3 in front of 33,970 at Globe Life Park on Sunday.
Minnesota snapped a season-high five-game losing streak. The Rangers are 6-4 during the quality start streak.
Texas may have lost more than just Sunday’s game.
Left fielder Delino DeShields left the game in the sixth inning after straining his left hamstring diving for a fly ball near the track in left-center field.
DeShields was scheduled to have an MRI on Sunday evening to determine the extent of the injury. He has been an integral part of the Rangers’ offense since being placed in the leadoff spot in late May.
For Martinez, Sunday didn’t start out looking like a quality start.
The 23-year-old, who is in his second season with the Rangers and in his fifth season since switching from infielder to pitcher, was greeted by a leadoff homer by Brian Dozier and a run-scoring double by Eduardo Nunez and trailed 2-0 after the first.
Solo homers by Joey Gallo and Leonys Martin in the second tied it at 2-2.
The Rangers led 3-2 after Hanser Alberto led off the fifth with a double and later scored on Prince Fielder’s groundout to second. DeShields, who had earlier reached on a bunt single, was tagged out near second base when he thought Fielder had made the third out in the inning. Instead of being on second with two outs and Mitch Moreland at the plate, the inning was over.
“It’s another moment we can grow from and learn from and know that we have to pay attention at all times,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Martinez allowed eight hits, including seven for extra bases, in seven innings. In the sixth, the Twins tripled three times, most in an inning in the club’s history, but only managed one run. Catcher Robinson Chirinos picked off Shane Robinson at third for the second out and Martinez struck out Byron Buxton to end the inning with the score tied at 3-3.
The Twins took a 4-3 lead in the ninth when Buxton scored from first on a double to the right-center gap by Eddie Rosario against Shawn Tolleson.
The Rangers were retired in order in the bottom of the inning as Glen Perkins earned his major league-leading 22nd save.
Banister liked how Martinez worked through a tough first inning without his best command.
“He did compete well, continued to pitch, I think it’s a growth moment for Nick today,” Banister said. “Any time you get a quality start it’s significant. That’s what we’re looking for from our starters. They’ve very confident, very comfortable.”
Martinez, who has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 13 starts, credits the rotation’s current run to learning from veterans such as Gallardo, Lewis and Rodriguez.
“I think it has a lot to do with our work ethic and we’re definitely very proud of how we go about our business and motivate each other from one start to the next,” said Martinez, who became the first major league pitcher to allow four triples in a game since the Indians’ Rick Sutcliffe at Toronto in July 1983.
“I learn something from them every time they take the mound,” he said. “It’s fun to watch when those guys take the mound. It motivates you to do better.”
The trio of veterans, plus Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez, who hope to return to the roster from injuries later this summer, have been excellent guides for Gonzalez and Martinez.
“They’re wanting to do the same thing their teammates are doing. They don’t want to be the guy that doesn’t,” Banister said. “I think it gives a heightened awareness, a certain energy level and focus. It’s those little things that really allow you to key in on that aspect of your performance.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Quality and quantity
Since Nick Martinez allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on June 3, the Rangers rotation has been stellar. Here’s a look at the 10 consecutive quality starts, which ties the club’s 1978 record:
RHP Yovani Gallardo
W, 2-1 (11)
RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Colby Lewis
RHP Nick Martinez