ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington asked outfielder Leonys Martin, the club's No. 8 hitter on Thursday, to sacrifice bunt in the third and fifth with runners and first and second and nobody out. By doing that, it brought up No. 9 hitter J.P. Arencibia, batting all of .083 coming in, in a run-scoring situation in a close game.
You can look at the decision two ways: On the one hand, Arencibia has hit into three ground-ball double plays, and by moving the runners you avoid that possibility. On the other, you send a strong message to Arencibia that everybody, no matter where they are in the lineup or what they're hitting, is trusted to come through in critical junctures.
Arencibia didn't get a hit in either opportunity. But he did hit two ground balls that scored Mitch Moreland each time. The second time was the eventual winning run in an 8-6 Rangers victory.
"Arencibia is a part of this team, and he has to deliver too," manager Ron Washington said. "So I put him in a situation to deliver and he got us two runs, productive outs. Base hits aren't always the key. He had two productive outs today.
"When you're in situations that we were in, we needed Martin to get the bunts down to scratch at least a run. He got two bunts down and we got four runs. Treat the game right and the game treats you right. As far as Arencibia goes, I feel like he can be productive. We just have to keep putting him in those situations and he'll come through. We're a team."
Arencibia disagreed with the term "scuffling" to describe his season at the plate so far and believes that he's had some rough luck and is hitting the ball better.
"What's your definition of scuffling?" Arencibia said. "Let's talk about hard-hit balls. It is what it is, but I'm hitting balls hard at people, and for whatever reason it's going the wrong way. I easily could have had two hits today. Scuffling for you maybe because of the numbers, but it's a lot more than that.
"I'm trying to help the team win and do the little things like that [driving in runs with productive outs]. That's important."
It's another case of the manager pushing the right buttons with his personnel. He could have let Martin hit, and the way Martin's hitting he would have had a strong case for doing so. Instead, he wanted to play for a run and see if Arencibia, despite his struggles, could score it. He did it twice. Let's see if that gives Arencibia a lift.
There's a fine line between a player earning the manager's trust and the manager just placing trust in that player first. Washington did the latter on Thursday and it paid off.