Los Angeles Angels stars Albert Pujols and Mike Trout are vying for the AL lead in homers and Texas Rangers starter Nick Martinez just got hammered in his first start after being called up from the minors.
That doesn’t mean the unheralded Martinez will be intimidated by facing baseball’s best power-hitting duo.
He’s had astounding success against Pujols and Trout and will try to help the Rangers complete a three-game road sweep Sunday in a matchup with unbeaten rookie Andrew Heaney.
Pujols and Trout have 29 homers apiece and have combined for 121 RBIs. Neither has gone deep against Martinez (5-5, 3.92 ERA), with Trout producing a double in 11 at-bats and Pujols going hitless in nine with three walks.
Martinez, however, was ripped for seven runs over four innings as he escaped without a decision in Monday’s 8-7 loss at Colorado after being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock that day. He posted a 6.27 ERA in losing three straight big-league outings prior to his demotion July 2.
The right-hander may be a different pitcher than he was in two April starts against the Angels in which he went 1-0 and allowed one unearned run and scattered 12 hits over 13 innings.
While Pujols and Trout went 1 for 8 against him in those games, Los Angeles (54-43) may be able to count on others. Kole Calhoun was 3 for 3 the one time he faced Martinez this year, and C.J. Cron went 3 for 6 in the two games.
The Angels are 5-0 in starts by Heaney (4-0, 1.57), who has won his last four outings and pitched at least seven innings in each of them after giving up two runs in seven in Monday’s 7-3 home victory over Boston.
The left-hander has received 27 runs of support over his last three starts. He is limiting hitters to a .194 average – .169 for right-handed batters. The Rangers (47-49) have never faced him.
Texas has rallied to take the first two games in this series after not coming from behind in a victory since June 30. The Rangers erased a two-run deficit with three runs in the eighth inning in Saturday’s 7-6 victory to improve baseball’s best road record to 31-23.
”We’ve talked about games like this and what they could do for us,” manager Jeff Banister said. ”They can be motivators for us, but they’re all important right now and we’ve got to complete the deal tomorrow and let this momentum ride for us. Anytime you’re playing an opponent that’s on top of you, you try to get yourself back into the mix of things.
”These guys have a lot of fight in them.”
Rougned Odor went 2 for 4 with a homer and Delino DeShields drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with an infield hit. Closer Shawn Tolleson pitched a scoreless ninth for the second straight night, giving him 17 saves.
Odor is hitting .375 with five homers and 15 RBIs in his last 22 games.
Former Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton did not start, flying out as a pinch-hitter one night after he was heavily booed by fans in his first game back in Anaheim after being traded to Texas on April 27.
Trout is 4 for 8 with a homer in this series and Calhoun is 3 for 9 with three RBIs for Los Angeles, which has dropped three straight following a seven-game win streak.