Past success remains elusive for Texas, Oakland starters

ARLINGTON, Texas — There are a few similarities between Sonny Gray and Nick Martinez. Not only are both looking for their first win of the season, but each pitcher gave up four runs in their most recent start, and both right-handers are battling to regain the kind of success they had in 2015.

The two will meet up on Saturday nightwhen the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers resume their three-game series at Globe Life Park.

Gray, who opened the season on the disabled list with a strained lat, has made two starts this season and is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA. He has allowed four runs in each of his two starts, though in his most recent outing on May 7 against Detroit, only one of the runs was earned.

Martinez, too, allowed four runs in his last outing, lasting six innings against the San Diego Padres. In his previous outing, he allowed seven runs (six earned) against the Houston Astros. He is 0-2 with a 5.18 ERA for the season.

“I just need to stick to my strengths,” Martinez said Friday. “The game plan that me, (Jonathan) Lucroy and (Robinson) Chirinos go over; if we can stick to that, then we give our team the best chance to win.” He added that he has seen success this year when he is “attacking hitters, getting hitters more engaged early on.”

The Rangers have won four straight since Martinez lost to the Padres on May 8. The Rangers were expecting to contend, but instead have seen turbulence. Even after the four consecutive wins, Texas is just 17-20

The A’s were not expected to contend, and have met those expectations pretty squarely. They are 16-19 after closer Santiago Casilla blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning in the opening game of this series. Gray hopes to reverse his team’s fortunes, and his own.

“The biggest thing is to get back to working on some putaway pitches,” Gray admits. “I feel like I’ve been able to get to two strikes quite a bit, pretty well, but I just haven’t been able to put guys away and finish innings. When you get to two strikes and you get to two outs in an inning, you’ve got to end the inning and that’s something that I’ve definitely got to get better at.

Gray feels optimistic about his continued return from injury.

“I feel like if you look at my last two starts, the overall numbers and lines might not be great but I feel like I’ve thrown the ball well. It’s just going to be, for me, getting back out there and getting repetition. After not really getting to have a spring, it’s going through some of that stuff right now, doing it in the middle of the season instead of during spring training. But I feel good.”

Both starters have a history against their division opponent.

Martinez is 4-2 in 11 games (seven starts) against the A’s. Gray, on the other hand, is 8-4 against Texas in 12 games, all starts. Among the wins, Gray can count two complete-game shutouts, though both occurred in 2014.