There was Leonys Martin in the third inning, seemingly not thinking as the second-year outfielder took a lead off second base and tried to steal third with two outs and Michael Choice batting. The attempt came right after he had stolen second base to get himself into scoring position.
Martin was thrown out, ending the Rangers' attempt to add to their 5-2 lead at that point. You hear it so often it has become cliché, but coaches preach about not making the final out of the inning at third base.
"It wasn't smart of him," manager Ron Washington said of his 26-year-old center fielder's decision. "He had just done a great thing stealing second base and there were two outs and Michael Choice had been swinging the bat all night well. So that wasn't a very smart play right there. We talked about it. I'm just trying to get him to understand that he has to think the game a little bit. That's all."
Martin also struggled in the field, hesitating on Adam Jones' fly ball to center to the point where he had to dive to try to catch it. The ball dropped for a two-run double, and one batter later, a two-out single tied the score. The Rangers had blown a 5-0. But Martin also had a single to lead off the second and scored one of the runs in that inning for his team. Again, that's youth.
Choice was up one inning after hitting a long home run into the Rangers' bullpen to give Texas a 4-0 lead. Choice, a 24-year-old outfielder in his first full big league season, was hitting only .202 coming into the game. And he fell behind 0-2 in his first at-bat. What pleased him most was that he hit the home run after he battled to get the count to 3-2, where he was able to turn a slider up in the zone, a pitch he was expecting.
The home run came one night after Choice struck out to end Wednesday's one-run loss to Baltimore. Such is life as a rookie. One day you can't seem to find a hit and the next, you hit a home run and a double to help your team win.
"It's an experience," Washington said of managing young players. "It's an experience for them and I've been around young players a lot and you've got to have patience. I try to have patience with them."
On Thursday, the middle infield of Rougned Odor (20 years old) and Luis Sardinas (21) made up for a rough outing the night before. Odor's legs helped create the go-ahead run in a three-run seventh inning. J.J. Hardy, a solid defensive shortstop throughout his career, made three errors during the game, including two in that seventh inning. Odor's speed helped cause them. He hit a ground ball to the hole at short and Hardy knew he had to hurry and the throw was wide. That allowed Odor to go to second. He went to third on Shin-Soo Choo's ground ball and scored when Hardy bobbled a ground ball from Elvis Andrus. Odor didn't hesitate and beat Hardy's throw home.
Robbie Ross, still only 24 years old, came in and threw two scoreless innings in a tie game. Ross struggled as a starter and was moved back to the bullpen. Perhaps Thursday's outing will give him some confidence.
It seems that inning to inning and game to game, the Rangers aren't quite sure what they're going to get from a group of young players. The manager knows he has to stick with them.
"You're always going to be teaching and you're always going to be trying to fix something and trying to teach something," Washington said. "But when you have kids that are talented, it's easy. They're going to make some mistakes, but I've never see them give up. I never see them drop their head. I always see them continue to push forward and in the end it's going to pay dividends. That's what it's about."