ARLINGTON, Texas -- For a mid-June game, Wednesday night's affair could prove to be a big one from a psychological standpoint. The Texas Rangers have an off day Thursday before embarking on a 10-day, nine-game trip through the three American League West teams above them in the standings.
If the Rangers want to stay in range of a wild-card spot, the trip will be critical. And setting the tone for it belongs to Yu Darvish.
Texas has lost four straight games. They are 2-6 on this homestand and have fallen back a bit in the wild-card standings -- not to mention in the AL West. It's still June. And while the club is dealing with a host of injuries and can't seem to find consistency, there's a lot of season left.
But if the Rangers lose Wednesday and head on the road without any momentum at all, then by the time July 1 rolls around the focus of this season could be very different.
This is why Darvish is so critical. He's the losing-streak stopper. He's the guy who has to pitch his team, complete with a tired bullpen, deep into game Wednesday and help a team short on offensive firepower and coming off a rough defensive game get into the win column again.
No confidence concerns: Rangers manager Ron Washington isn't worried about starter Nick Martinez's confidence, even after the 23-year-old right-hander struggled again in his previous start Monday.
"I haven't seen him pitching with a lack of confidence -- maybe a lack of command, but not confidence," Washington said.
Washington said the club has to get Martinez back to "where he was when he first got here."
"That's attacking the zone and using all his pitches," Washington said. "[Monday], he lost command of his fastball. He had better command of his secondary stuff. Now we just have to get it to where he has it all working at the same time. If we can do that, we'll see the Nick Martinez that got him here."
Extra days: Martinez is one of a few pitchers getting the advantage of an additional day of rest thanks to Thursday's off day. Washington wouldn't say, but he hinted that Darvish would as well. That would put Darvish on the mound Tuesday in Oakland against the A's. Darvish is 1-7 with a 4.73 ERA in nine starts in his career against Oakland. His ERA jumps to 7.71 in Oakland. Perhaps the extra day will help.
Draft picks signed: Rangers draft picks SS Ti'Quan Forbes (second round), SS Josh Morgan (third round) and LHP Brett Martin (fourth round) signed on Tuesday and were in Arlington. Forbes and Martin said they'd be willing to play whatever positions the Rangers wanted, though the plan right now is for them to play at shortstop and second base in Arizona. Forbes also could get some time in the outfield.
Martin, who also will go out to Arizona, said his top goal in the next year is to gain weight. He's 6-foot-4, 190 pounds and wants to get up to 215 or 220 pounds.
"I just want to build some strength," Martin said. "This is also a great time for me to be a pitcher and not a thrower. I'm really going to work on that out in Arizona."
The Rangers are in good shape to sign at least nine of their top 10 picks, including first-round selection RHP Luis Ortiz. Nick Green, taken in the seventh round, could be the toughest to sign, though the Rangers remain confident they'll get that one done, too.