6/15/2014 3:31 P.M. ET
Rangers slowly building up quality starts
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Joe Saunders turned in an official quality start by holding the Mariners to two runs in six innings on Saturday night. It was the third straight quality start, following Yu Darvish's shutout on Wednesday and Nick Tepesch's 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Friday.
It's the first time this season that the Rangers have received three quality starts in a row. Quality starts are defined as the starter going at least six innings and allowing three or fewer earned runs. It's only the third time this season that Rangers starters have pitched at least six innings in at least three straight games no matter how many runs given up.
The Rangers have 24 quality starts on the season. Despite leading the league in shutouts, the Rangers are last in the league in quality starts. Darvish has 10 of the 24 quality starts. Martin Perez, who had Tommy John surgery and is out for the season, and Tepesch each have three. Nick Martinez, Saunders and Robbie Ross Jr. each have two while Scott Baker and Matt Harrison each have one.
A shutout does not necessarily mean a quality start. Three of the Rangers' 13 shutouts have been accomplished without the starter going six innings.
Martin earns another day in leadoff spot
SEATTLE -- Rangers manager Ron Washington saw enough from Leonys Martin in the leadoff spot on Saturday night to use him there again on Sunday.
Martin was 2-for-4 with a walk and drove in the go-ahead run with a ninth-inning single in the Rangers' 4-3 win over the Mariners. It was his fifth game-winning RBI this season, most on the team, and snapped an 0-for-15 drought with runners in scoring position. But Washington saw more than just base hits.
"He did OK," Washington said. "He took some pitches I never saw him take before."
Washington still isn't ready to proclaim Martin as his leadoff hitter. It is a tantalizing option because of his speed but there is still his impatience at the plate to work through. Martin is seeing 3.68 pitches per plate appearance and that ranks eighth among 10 Rangers with at least 100 plate appearances. He also has the lowest percentage among pitches taken.
"If he sees something he likes, put a good swing on it," Washington said. "But down in the lineup, he was slashing at everything."
The Rangers tried Martin in the leadoff spot last year but he hit .238 with a .301 on-base percentage as opposed to .292 with a .336 on-base percentage in the No. 9 spot. But on a team clobbered by injuries, using Martin in the leadoff spot could be the answer to an offense that has been struggling to score runs.
"I feel comfortable leading off," Martin said. "I just have to keep my mind focused on getting on base and making something happen. I have the best hitters batting behind me so it's a good opportunity to score runs. Last year I got experience leading off. I just don't put pressure on myself, just go up to home plate and do what I can do."
Said Washington, "We'll just let him hit there and see where it goes. I'm not going to anoint him yet."
Rangers' Washington stays with Sardinas
SEATTLE -- Luis Sardinas was in the lineup for the second straight game on Sunday. After starting at shortstop for Elvis Andrus on Saturday night, Sardinas was at second base on Sunday to give Rougned Odor a day off.
"I wanted to give Sardinas back-to-back days so he can have some at-bats and he's not cold," manager Ron Washington said.
Sardinas had a key error on Saturday night, dropping a relay from Odor on a potential double play ball in the seventh inning. But he also had a one-out single in the ninth and ended up scoring the go-ahead run.
"They don't stop playing," Washington said. "That's what I like about both of them."
Washington is not concerned about Sardinas at shortstop even though he has three errors in six games -- including three starts -- over 32 innings.
"The kid can play shortstop," Washington said. "They work on that double play every single day. He took for granted the throw would be where it was supposed to. It was off and he didn't make the adjustment. He just has to slow it down and make sure it's there."
Washington originally had Donnie Murphy at third base so that Adrian Beltre could be used at designated hitter. But the manager switched Beltre back to third and Murphy to DH minutes before first pitch.
Soto still shooting for All-Star break return
SEATTLE -- Catcher Geovany Soto, who has been on the disabled list since undergoing surgery on his right knee at the end of Spring Training, is on his first road trip with the Rangers and still hoping to return after the All-Star break.
Soto is running, doing agility drills and has also started swinging the bat again. He is hitting off a tee right now with soft toss being the next step before he graduates to full batting practice. The final step would be to resume squatting as a catcher.
"They kind of slowly have me doing baseball-specific stuff," Soto said. "So far everything feels great."
With Soto on the disabled list and J.P. Arencibia with Triple-A Round Rock, Chris Gimenez and Robinson Chirinos have been splitting the catching duties. Since May 21, when Arencibia was sent to Triple-A, Gimenez and Chirinos have combined to hit .341 with three home runs and 16 RBIs over 23 games.
• Outfielder Zach Cone, who was the Rangers' No. 1 Draft pick in 2011 but has been struggling to overcome a bad ankle injury from last season, has been activated off the disabled list and assigned to Class A Short Season Spokane. Cone was hitting .181 with a .263 on-base percentage and a .235 slugging percentage this season at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach.
• Infielder Jason Donald has been placed on the disabled list at Triple-A Round Rock with a sore back. Double-A pitcher Keone Kela has been placed on the disabled list to get him some time off and catcher Patrick Cantwell went on the disabled list with a sore wrist. Pitcher Miles Mikolas was taken off the disabled list at Round Rock and put back in the Express rotation.
• Elvis Andrus went into Sunday's game with 16 stolen bases and Leonys Martin had 15. The Rangers were the only team to have two players with 15 or more stolen bases.
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.