ARLINGTON-- Rangers rookie Nick Martinez knows exactly what dictates the difference between smooth and rough, good and bad.
It's fastball command.
"I'm pretty successful when I'm locating my fastball," the right-hander said Wednesday before his Thursday start against the Tigers. "When I'm not locating my fastball, it's going to be a tough day for me."
There's quite a bit of truth in the 23-year-old's analysis. Against Seattle June 15, he threw for six innings with just one walk -- he located his fastball. Saturday in Anaheim he tossed seven innings of three-hit ball -- he located his fastball.
But in Thursday's 6-0 loss to the Tigers, that same fastball that had pushed him to two of his best starts of the season, had the opposite effect.
Of the 46 fastballs he threw in his brief 2 1/3-innings stint, 25 were called for balls, and Martinez exited the game tagged for six hits, four runs -- all earned -- and a career-high five walks.
The Rangers have now dropped eight straight -- the longest losing streak in the league, and their longest of the season. They've been swept twice in a row now, and haven't won since June 16 against the A's. The last time they lost eight in a row was nearly a decade ago, in August of 2005.
What do the Rangers need to do to end this slump?
"Guys getting some base hits and getting some base hits with runners in scoring position," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's what it's going to take."
But Thursday, that's not what the Rangers got.
Tigers starter Rick Porcello pitched his first career shutout -- his second career complete game -- and held the Rangers to just three hits, a fourth of the Tigers' 12.
"He's got a pretty good sinker, we all know that," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "I think that he made the right pitches in the right moment. ... He just located the sinker inside and there's nothing else you can do about it."
The Tigers scored their first run in the second inning when Torii Hunter's RBI walk brought in Nick Castellanos, who had originally singled, advanced to second on an Alex Avila single, and third on a Eugenio Suarez fly out.
The second, third, and fourth runs came in the third inning. Austin Jackson singled to score Victor Martinez and Castellanos. Jackson scored for Nick Martinez's fourth and final run when Ian Kinsler singled in reliever Scott Baker's first batter of the night.
Baker gave up two runs of his own, one in the top of the fourth on J.D. Martinez's sacrifice fly, and the final run of the night in the eighth in Miguel Cabrera's RBI double.
Because Martinez was pulled so early, Baker went for 6 2/3 innings in long relief, the longest relief outing in the league of the season, and the longest by a Ranger since Ross Wolf in 2013.
Baker now has the most relief outings of five or more innings by a Ranger since Danny Darwin in 1980.
"Tremendous job," Washington said of his reliable reliever. "He certainly came in and did what he's been doing for us all year when we've been having trouble getting through early innings. He came in and bridged the gap, and kept the bullpen out of the game tonight. It could have been a disaster."
As for the offensive struggles, Washington had one suggestion moving forward.
"Grind it out," he said.
The effort is certainly there. But Thursday, the results just didn't come along with it.
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.