They gained trust in a new middle infielder.
Leury Garcia got his second major league start -- his second in two days -- Sunday in the series finale when he replaced resting second baseman Ian Kinsler, who didn’t start for the first time this season. Saturday night the 22-year-old rookie debuted at shortstop, as Elvis Andrus was the designated hitter after starting the first 11 games in the field.
Garcia dazzled meticulous manager Ron Washington with his alertness and attention to detail in his first start -- both with his bat and his glove.
Saturday’s box score showed Garcia singled for his first major league hit in the sixth inning. He came around to tie the game at 1 on a weird play in which Nelson Cruz hit a bases-loaded line drive that Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak dropped then threw to second for a forceout.
What the box score didn’t describe was the play Washington will remember likely for as long as Garcia is a Ranger. It came two innings later, with Craig Gentry on first base and no outs and the game still tied.
Washington didn’t have a time on Seattle reliever Carter Capps’ motion out of the stretch to the plate. And when the manager tried to get one from the dugout in Saturday’s eighth inning, his watch stopped working.
“So I had to go on instincts,” Washington said.
He initially had a sacrifice bunt play on for Garcia. He intended to then flash the sign to third base coach Gary Pettis for Gentry to steal instead.
“Actually, I thought I gave the steal sign. I accidentally put on a hit-and-run trying to steal,” Washington said Sunday morning.
Pettis relayed the message to the 29-year-old Gentry leading off first base and to the 22-year-old Garcia outside the batter’s box. Pettis took off the bunt sign and put on the hit-and-run. Not only did Gentry get the switch, but so did the rookie -- on the road, in the eighth inning of a tie game, his second appearance in the majors.
Capps’ next pitch was high and hard, hardly optimal on which to hit and run. Yet with Gentry sprinting to second, Garcia muscled the ball past the pitcher’s mound for a groundout to short. Garcia putting the ball in play allowed Gentry to get into scoring position, from which he scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single by Andrus.
“I’m a genius,” Washington joked of succeeding accidentally.
He said it was the first time such a sign mix-up had happened to him in 984 games as a Rangers manager and 11 years before that as a coach for the Oakland Athletics.
Garcia got a hero’s welcome in the dugout after his heads-up play.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, Seattle’s Dustin Ackley scorched a one-hopper to Garcia’s side. The shortstop moved his head and body behind his glove, just as Washington preaches, and instead of stabbing at the ball, calmly collected the smash and turned it into a routine second out.
Closer Joe Nathan then finished off the Rangers’ 3-1 win.
“He didn’t show any ill effect of being unsure of what he can do. … I’m pleased,” Washington said of Garcia, who Texas signed as a free agent in December 2007 out of the Dominican Republic when he was just 16.
“I’m happy now that I can send him out there and trust him.”
Soto returns: The Rangers leave Seattle Sunday evening for Chicago and a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs beginning Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
It will be the first time for Geovany Soto in Wrigley since Texas acquired the backup catcher in a trade with the Cubs for Jake Brigham on July 31, 2012. Washington hopes to get Soto at least one start there this week.
“Oh, yeah, it’s going to be great to be back there,” Soto said before he started for A.J. Pierzynski in the finale of the Seattle series. “I have a lot of great memories from my time there.”
One thing Soto is certain hasn’t changed is the happy, party vibe at Wrigley Field. It rages on. Even when the Cubs are losing. Even when it’s cold and rainy. Yes, it’s forecast to be rainy and in the 40s and 50s during the Rangers' series there this week.
“It’s really a special place,” Soto said. “I’m really lucky to have gotten to play there. The fans there always supported us. It felt like a playoff game every day, no matter if it was in the middle of May.”
His advice to his Rangers teammates on playing there this week?
“Just try to stay hot,” he said, smiling, “especially in April.”
Up next: After Monday’s second off day of the young season, the Rangers will start Derek Holland (0-1, 2.40 ERA) against Cubs left-hander Travis Wood (1-0, 1.46) Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. CT. Wednesday at the same time, Justin Grimm makes his second start in place of injured Matt Harrison, against Carlos Villanueva (0-0, 0.64). Thursday at 1:20 p.m., Alexi Ogando (2-0, 1.08) faces Cubs Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 2.75). All games will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest. Tuesday and Thursday’s radio broadcasts will be on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, with Wednesday’s game on 660 AM.