Let’s start with the positive conclusion: in Spring Training games, sometimes you get a hero who is certainly not going to make the big leagues that season. Today was one of those days: Jason Martinson hit a three-run home run and an RBI double to take the heavy lifting on a pretty phenomenal comeback, and before we get to the more pertinent-to-the-eventual-opening-day-roster portion of this story, let’s tip our cap to him. Onward!
Okay, on to the rest of the gamer: The problem with Nick Martinez is not that he can’t throw strikes. He threw 65 pitched on Wednesday, and 42 of them were strikes. He did walk one today, and it was a bad one, but it came after two 2-strike foul balls. It is here that we find the crux of this story.
In the first inning, Martinez faced four batters, and had two strikes on each of them. But Brandon Guyer and Yan Gomes both got singles (to be fair, Guyer’s was a bloop). Martinez righted the ship, inducing a double play, but a run scored on the play before Martinez ended the inning by striking out Bradley Zimmer. It was Martinez’ first strikeout of the Spring.
In the second inning, after a Napoli sac fly scored Carlos Gomez to tie the game, Chris Colabello singled (1-1 count), Giovanny Urshela singled (after starting his at-bat with an 0-2 count), and Greg Allen hit a double (1-0 count) that probably should have been a single, had Shin-Soo Choo’s angle been a bit better. With the score now 2-1, runners on second and third, and no outs, Martinez got a groundout to third (1-2 count), his second strikeout (Erik Gonzalez, 0-2 count), and it appeared Martinez might wriggle out of another pickle.
Alas, it was here that we saw an object lesson: if a pitcher struggles to put away batters with two strikes, the solution is never to stop throwing strikes. With the count 2-0, Guyer hit a two-run single, and the score started to get out of hand. It would continue to do so in the following frame:
Bloop single (0-0), hard single (0-0), the aforementioned walk, which loaded the bases. *deep breath* Sac fly (1-0), comebacker to get the lead runner in a rundown (3-1), two-run double (3-1), pitching change.
It was fun earlier in spring when Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez were impressive. The last week has been decidedly less so as both right-handers trend downward.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about how this wildling of a baseball game ended: In the bottom of the fourth (The score 8-2 by this point), Joey Gallo legged out a double, and moved to third on a Will Middlebrooks single. Drew Robinson pushed Gallo home (albeit on an error) to make it 8-3, Doug Bernier dumped a Texas Leaguer into right field to score Middlebrooks (8-4), and Carlos Gomez brought home Robinson on a sac fly to pull the Rangers to within three.
Meanwhile, Dario Alvarez kept his Spring ERA at 0.00, despite allowing one hit and a walk, and the Dario Alvarez / Wesley Wright left-handed reliever battle intensified just a little more.
Then in the 7th (after Yan Gomes and Richie Shaffer led off the sixth inning with back-to-back home runs to make it 10-5) Ronald Guzman doubled off the wall, Cesar Puello singled, and Jason Martinson hit a game-tying three-run home run to make it 10-10.
Kudos, too, should be levied towards Anthony Bass, who pitched two perfect innings. But Martinson was not finished.
In the 8th inning, the minor leaguer smashed another deep drive. This one didn’t clear the wall, but it did score Yanio Perez, who was pinch-running for Nomar Mazara. Ryne Slack came on in the ninth inning, and pitched a clean 1-2-3 inning. The Rangers had come back from deficits of 7-1 and 8-2 to take an 11-10 lead.
Alas, in the ninth, Cleveland got their own minor league Spring Training hero: Eric Stamets hit a home run to tie it up.
TO THE BOTTOM OF THE NINTH WE GO: Leody Taveras, just eighteen years old, and arguably the Rangers’ #1 prospect, walked and stole second base. CUE JARED HOYING, who mercifully and majestically hit a walk-off single to score Taveras and cap this wild Cactus League matchup.