Rangers drop series finale to division-rival Angels

Rangers drop series finale to division-rival Angels

ARLINGTON -- Leonys Martin went 2-for-3 with a walk and his first first-inning leadoff home run on Thursday as he continues to respond to interim manager Tim Bogar's challenge to prove he can be a leadoff hitter.

But he also made a crucial error in center field that cost starter Nick Martinez and turned out to be a pivotal play in a 7-3 loss to the Angels. The late-season evaluation of Martin continues, although the Rangers know he can play defense.

If the overall offense continues to trend upward the way it has from the leadoff spot, the Rangers will be able to salvage something from their late-season travails, which includes losing 11 of their last 12 games.

"I just think [Martin has] kind of relaxed," Bogar said. "I told him he is going to play every day and lead off, and you can see him start to relax. He's taking to the challenge. He's still got a lot to do, and he still has to grow, but his at-bats have been a lot better."

Martin is 12-for-25 with two walks in six games since Bogar relayed the message that he would be giving him a chance to lead off every game, including against left-handers.

"[With] every pitch, I am trying to think as a leadoff hitter," Martin said. "I feel comfortable at home and am trying to have good at-bats, just swing at strikes."

Martin's offensive efforts still couldn't contribute to a victory, as the Rangers fell to the Angels for the ninth time in 10 games at home this season. The Angels are the first visiting team to win nine games against the Rangers in a season in Arlington.

Martinez, who has yet to win a game at home, went six innings and allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits, one walk and three strikeouts. He also hit Mike Trout twice, which did not make anybody on the Angels' side happy. The second time it happened, Trout flung his bat in obvious irritation as he headed to first.

"Just trying to establish the fastball inside, and it got away from me," Martinez said. "I understand his frustration, but it's not on purpose."

The Rangers plunked Trout three times in two games, including once on Wednesday.

"You go up there to have at-bats, you don't go up there thinking you're going to get hit," Trout said. "He was just pitching inside; they've been doing it the whole series, and I just got hit a couple of times."

Angels reliever Joe Smith hit catcher Tomas Telis with a pitch in the ninth inning, and home-plate umpire Doug Eddings issued a warning to both benches.

"I'm sure Martinez isn't trying to hit him, but when you're pitching inside, you can't just pitch inside with reckless abandon," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You have to have the command to be able to do it. I don't think anybody likes to get hit in the arm twice."

The first hit-by-pitch didn't help Martinez. Neither did Martin's error, though he had already provided a lead with his first-inning home run before Erick Aybar's two-run shot made it 2-1 in the second.

Kole Calhoun led off the Angels' third with a line drive to center field that Martin dropped as he charged in trying to make the catch.

"I saw it was a line drive, but it carried a little bit," Martin said. "I ran hard trying to catch it, but I moved my head at the last second."

Calhoun stopped at first but advanced to second on a wild pitch. Trout was then hit and, after Albert Pujols struck out, the runners moved up on a hit-and-run as Howie Kendrick grounded out to short. That put two runners in scoring position, and David Freese lined a single to center to score both and give the Angels a three-run lead.

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.