ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Nick Martinez did what he needed to do, the defense cleaned up its act after committing four errors Friday, and the Texas Rangers' runners ramped things up on the bases. But the bullpen couldn't hang on in a 5-4 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night, the Rangers' second consecutive loss, in front of 30,364 at Tropicana Field.
In the Nick of time: Making his major league debut, Martinez wasn't necessarily super-sharp or extremely masterful on the mound, but the 23-year-old righty squared off against 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price and outdueled him, holding the Rays to three runs over six innings. Unfortunately, the Texas bullpen did him no favors when Neal Cotts surrendered two runs in the eighth inning to give the Rays the lead late. Martinez gave up a solo homer to Yunel Escobar in the third and a two-run shot to Matt Joyce in the fourth, but he allowed just two other hits over his 85-pitch performance. He struck out three and walked three.
Following through: Before the game, Texas manager Ron Washington preached aggressiveness on the basepaths. The Rangers obliged. Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus combined for consecutive singles to start the game. Choo then hustled to third on a fly ball to center by Prince Fielder. After Adrian Beltre struck out, Andrus stole second during Alex Rios' at-bat when Price decided not to do much to hold him on first. Choo and Andrus then scored when Rios singled to left-center. In the second, Josh Wilson scored from second on a single to left by Andrus with two out to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
Defense, defense: A night after making four errors, the Rangers were much more efficient in the field. In the first inning, after Andrus and Beltre made some good plays on hard-hit grounders, Leonys Martin kept the Rays scoreless by tracking down a deep fly to right-center off the bat of Ben Zobrist. In the second, Wilson recorded an out on a sharp grounder from Evan Longoria before Beltre hustled over to the Rangers dugout and snared a pop fly by Joyce. In the seventh, with the Rangers clinging to a 4-3 lead, a runner at third and one out, Andrus corralled a short hop grounder to him on a drawn-in infield to get Escobar. Andrus then made a play worthy of the "SportsCenter" Top 10 when he rushed in on a slow roller from David DeJesus, barehanded it and threw out the speedy DeJesus at first to preserve the lead.