Martinez escapes early trouble in solid outing

Righty heeds Maddux's advice as Rangers improve to 8-1 in his starts

Martinez escapes early trouble in solid outing

NEW YORK -- Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez went into Saturday's start against the Yankees having held opponents to a .122 batting average with runners in scoring position in his first eight starts.

That was the second-lowest average by a qualifying pitcher in the American League. Martinez's ability to strand runners was significant early, even though the Rangers rolled to a 15-4 win at Yankee Stadium.

Despite the impressive margin of victory, the Rangers are also 2-17 this season when the opponents score first. Martinez kept the Yankees from doing that in the first inning Saturday despite some control issues at the outset.

"Big key," manager Jeff Banister said after Texas' fourth straight victory. "That inning could have been a little problematic and gotten away from us. It was nice that he settled down. He felt there were a couple of borderline pitches that he didn't get, but he didn't let it rattle him. He got the outs he needed and started pounding the strike zone."

Martinez started his day by walking leadoff hitter Brett Gardner. Carlos Beltran flied out, but after Gardner stole second, Martinez also walked Alex Rodriguez to put runners on first and second.

That earned Martinez a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux. Martinez responded to Maddux's instruction by getting Mark Teixeira on a pop to third and then struck out Chase Headley.

"[Maddux] just asked me how I felt and if I had any gas left," Martinez said. "I told him I felt great, so he just reminded me to keep attacking hitters."

Teixeira pop started a run for Martinez in which he retired 15 of 16 batters. The only batter to reach was Rodriguez, who led off the fourth with an infield single and advance to second on a throwing error by second baseman Adam Rosales.

Martinez had a one-hit shutout going into the sixth before Beltran hit a one-out solo home run. Martinez also gave up a solo home run to Didi Gregorius in the seventh, but that was it.

"The first inning, I don't know how to explain it," Martinez said. "I just didn't have it. But after that, I locked it in and went on the attack."

Martinez was done after seven innings, having allowed five hits and two walks while striking out five. He is 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA on the season and the Rangers are 8-1 when he starts.

The Yankees were also 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Martinez. That dropped their season batting average allowed in those situations to .104, lowest in the league.

Going back to last year, Martinez has also allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 straight starts. That ties for the longest such streak in club history with Rich Hand, who did so in 1972.

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