For Martinez, trust in fastball equaling success

For Martinez, trust in fastball equaling success

ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Nick Martinez has pitched 14 innings this season and has still not given up an earned run. His well-placed fastball -- ranging from 87 to 91 mph -- kept that from happening in a couple of crucial moments on Tuesday night.

The Rangers ended up winning, 8-2, against the Angels, but the outcome might have been different if the visiting team had been able to get to Martinez early.

"Plus command tonight," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "[Martinez] has bought into being able to pitch inside for strikes and pitch inside for effect, to open up the outside part of the plate."

Martinez is the third pitcher in club history to go at least seven innings in his first two starts and not allow an earned run. Jon Matlack did so in 1980 and Yu Darvish did it last season. It all comes back to fastball command.

"Just attack with the fastball, in and out, up and down, change speeds when I have to," Martinez said. "It's something I worked on a lot this offseason. I had a small mechanical issue that I was able to fix, and I'm zoned in, able to hit my spots consistently."

Martinez's night began with Erick Aybar leading off the first with a line-drive single out to right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Perhaps getting the Spring Training scouting report about Choo's arm troubles, Aybar tried to turn it into a double and was thrown out.

Mike Trout followed with a double, and Albert Pujols walked, but Martinez came back to get Matt Joyce on a soft line drive to shortstop and then David Freese was retired on a grounder to first. Both outs came on 90-91-mph fastball.

"You just have to stick to the game plan," Martinez said.

Martinez, given a 1-0 lead by his offense, also ran into trouble in the second against the bottom of the Angels' order after striking out C.J. Cron. Martinez walked Chris Iannetta, gave up a double to Collin Cowgill, and hit Johnny Giavotella to load the bases.

That brought up Aybar. Martinez threw a curve over for a strike and then got Aybar to hit a grounder right at second baseman Rougned Odor, who started an inning-ending double play. The pitch was a fastball clocked at 87.

Martinez induces bases-loaded DP

"[Aybar] likes to swing early," Martinez said. "Just throw something with movement and keep it down. The worst he can do is hit a ground ball."

Over the next four innings, Martinez retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced while the Rangers were piling up an 8-1 lead. His 13-inning scoreless streak ended in the seventh because of a throwing error by third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Martinez is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts, while the rest of the rotation is 2-4 with a 5.82 ERA in the other seven starts.

"He showed tremendous poise," said Banister. "He got through a couple difficult situations and continued to pound the strike zone."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.