Positive signs for Martinez despite loss to O's

Positive signs for Martinez despite loss to O's

BALTIMORE -- Nick Martinez went 2-0 with a 0.35 ERA in April, finishing the month with the lowest ERA in Major League Baseball among qualifying pitchers. June was a different story, as the right-hander posted a 1-3 record with a 6.35 ERA and saw his season mark rise from 2.03 to a 3.39.

His first start of July was a step in the right direction as Martinez went 6 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits, four runs (three earned), a walk and two home runs while striking out five in the Rangers' 4-2 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday.

"My last couple of outings, I lost my feel for the zone a little," Martinez said. "Today I felt a whole lot better getting ahead of guys and getting some early contact. Even though it didn't turn out my way, I feel good."

With the loss, Martinez has dropped three consecutive road starts after going 3-0 in his first six away games, but his outing Wednesday went much better than the last two. The right-hander faced no more than four batters in any inning except the seventh.

Martinez's first blunder came in the fourth inning when he gave up a leadoff home run to Jimmy Paredes, and the O's added another run when Ryan Flaherty hit a leadoff double in the fourth, advanced to third on an error by Adrian Beltre and scored on a grounder by Paredes. Martinez then gave up a leadoff single to Chris Davis in the seventh before J.J. Hardy turned on a 1-1 fastball to give the Orioles a 4-2 lead.

Hardy's go-ahead two-run shot

"First homer, I kind of fell into a little pattern there and he got me," Martinez said. "That second one, I thought I made a good pitch down and in and he hit it. I took a look at the replay and it was down and in, sinking in on him and he hit it out."

Martinez was pulled from the game with two outs in the seventh after giving up a single to Flaherty. He showed improvement after allowing at least seven runs in two of his five starts in June and giving up at least eight hits in four of his last six starts.

With Wednesday's outing, Martinez has posted a quality start in seven of nine road starts this season.

"I think it is a really good step in the right direction," Martinez said.

Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.