Nick Martinez stuck his glove blindly behind his back and stabbed a hard liner out of the air, part of a spectacular double play in a big relief appearance for the Texas Rangers as they got closer to another AL West title.
"I don't know how he caught it," manager Jeff Banister said after the Rangers' 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night cut their magic number to two.
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"I guess it happened so quick that it happened in slow motion," Martinez said. "I just kind of threw my glove up there, there's no real explanation for it, in hopes of knocking it down."
That play in the fifth by Martinez (2-3) came during his 3⅓ scoreless innings. He was the first of six Rangers relievers after A.J. Griffin, who was feeling ill, fell behind 3-1 in the second.
Rookie Nomar Mazara hit his 20th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot for the Rangers (90-62) in another testy game with multiple ejections.
Mazara's 438-foot drive off rookie right-hander Daniel Wright (0-4) in the fourth made it 4-3. Mitch Moreland added an RBI single an inning later after two batters were hit by pitches.
Houston won 2-1 in 10 innings at Oakland later Tuesday to keep the Rangers' magic number at two to win their second consecutive AL West title, and seventh overall.
The Astros are 9.5 games back and the Mariners 10.5 back in the AL West. Houston and Seattle both have day games Wednesday before the Rangers' series finale against the last-place Angels that night.
Angels left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and manager Mike Scioscia were ejected when Elvis Andrus was hit by a pitch in the eighth, an inning after both benches had been warned when Rangers reliever Keona Kela threw a pitch that went behind the head of Andrelton Simmons.
Andrus was the third Texas batter hit by a pitch after Mike Trout was hit by a pitch in the Angels second.
There was also a short delay in the Rangers seventh when third-base coach Spike Owen walked toward the Angels dugout and had words with a clearly agitated Scioscia.
"I was upset," Scioscia said. "He was the closest guy in an opposing uniform."
Banister didn't give any insight about what happened with Owen.
"I think that my third-base coach got asked out to lunch," Banister said. "They were trying to make plans, they interrupted the game, so I went over there and made sure we kept the game going."
In the Ranger's 3-2 series-opening victory Monday night, Banister (arguing a replay review) and Moreland (questioning a called third strike) were tossed early.
Sam Dyson worked the ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances.
On that play in the fifth, Martinez made the no-look snag on Simmons' hard liner. Once Martinez realized the ball was in his glove, he leisurely tossed to first base to complete the double play before a fist pump while a huge smile took over his face.
Simmons threw both of his hands up in disbelief and then put them on his hips as Scioscia shook his head in the Angels dugout. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre mouthed "Wow!" when watching the replay on the big video boards.
"That's not fun," Simmons said. "You try to hit the ball hard, and a guy makes a crazy play. That's baseball, I guess."
Rangers: Reliever Tony Barnette, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 4 because of a strained right oblique, threw a bullpen session with 25 pitches off flat ground before 10 off the mound. Barnette called it an "encouraging day."
Angels: Wright was hit in the back of the leg by a comebacker in the second, but was OK. ... Scioscia said Jhoulys Chacin, who had a comebacker ricochet off his lower left leg Monday, was sore but should make his next start.
Ball 14, Ball 15
Martinez came in with two outs in the second after Griffin's last 12 pitches were balls, a stretch when he hit Trout with a pitch to load the bases before consecutive four-pitch walks to Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron that made it 3-1. Martinez's first three pitches were balls before an inning-ending groundout by Simmons.
In the Net
When Rangers C Jonathan Lucroy lost the bat on a big swing and miss in the second inning, the bat flew into the protective net behind the plate and lodged several feet above the seats.
Rangers: Lefty Derek Holland (7-8) has lost his last two starts, allowing nine runs in 9⅔ innings.
Angels: Jered Weaver (11-12) will try to join Chuck Finley (165) as the only pitchers to win 150 games in an Angels uniform. The right-hander's 17 wins against Texas are his most against any opponent.