October 2, 2022

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Pérez flirts with perfection in pitchers' duel

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Bullpen unable to hang on following the lefty's 7 innings of one-run ball
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ARLINGTON — Nine years ago, Martín Pérez was an up-and-coming Rangers pitching prospect playing in his first full season in the big leagues. After a long and winding road, including stops in Minnesota and Boston, he returned to Texas and flirted with perfection in his fourth start of the season on Thursday afternoon.  

Pérez tossed seven innings — the first six of which were perfect — allowing one run on two hits and no walks, but he had to settle for the no-decision as the Rangers fell, 3-2, to the Astros at Globe Life Field. The lefty said it meant a lot to have that kind of outing at this point in his career while being back in Texas. 

“I’m more experienced now,” Pérez said of his second stint in Texas. “I’m just trying to attack the hitters every time. I want to go out there with conviction. I was trying to do my best and keep the ball in play and make sure the guys were in good timing with me so they could make the outs. Today was amazing. I think [the Astros] just did a little bit better than us.”

Pérez’s perfect-game bid was broken up by Chas McCormick, who led off the seventh inning with a double to the right-center-field gap. Two batters later, he lost the lead with an RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, which snapped the 0-0 tie as well as Pérez’s 13-inning scoreless streak.

The Rangers still haven’t tossed a no-hitter since Kenny Rogers’ perfect game on July 24, 1994.  

It was the longest perfect stretch to open a start in Pérez’s career, and he needed fewer than 10 pitches to get through three of his seven frames. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Pérez is just the second pitcher in MLB this season to open a start with at least six perfect innings, joining the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (seven perfect) on April 13.

Pérez is also the first Rangers pitcher to take a no-hitter or a perfect-game bid into the seventh inning or later since Mike Minor on June 27, 2018, against the Padres. Minor’s no-hitter was broken up with one out in the seventh.  

“That’s as good as I’ve seen a guy throw,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “Just looking back at some of the pitches that he made, he just kept executing and executing. I thought he was going to throw the perfect game, frankly. I can’t say enough about what he did.”

It was a brilliantly pitched game on both sides of the ball, with Houston starter Justin Verlander retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced before proceeding to sit down 11 more in a row between Andy Ibáñez’s third-inning single and Corey Seager’s seventh-inning single.

The Rangers tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the seventh inning but despite Pérez’s gem, the Astros’ hitters came out on top. Pérez’s day ended at 76 pitches through seven innings, and reliever Matt Bush gave up a two-run, pinch-hit homer to Kyle Tucker, allowing Houston to retake the lead.

Pérez said he was ready to return to the mound in the eighth, and Woodward said he likely would have let him if the bottom of the seventh hadn’t taken so long as the Rangers tied the game. Even with the low pitch count, Pérez hadn’t pitched into the eighth inning at all this season and the staff took that into account.

The skipper added that he felt like Pérez had done his job to that point, and it was up to the bullpen to maintain the tie game.

“I say when you dominate, you dominate,” Pérez said. “They made the decision, and there is nothing you can do. I respect it, but I don’t think that way. I know that I can go deep, and I know what I can do. … The pitching coaches came to me and said I was done. I’m never going to say something to them, because they made the decision, but I was ready. It doesn’t matter how long the inning takes, I was ready to go out there and throw one more inning, or at least two more hitters. That was the decision, and I’m OK with that.”  

All things considered, Pérez may be the Rangers’ best starting pitcher to this point in the season. His outing on Thursday was the longest start by a Texas pitcher this season and the only start without issuing a walk.

“I think he got unlucky [in his first two starts],” Woodward said. “I think he’s just executing a lot of pitches. He’s just really good. He’s got the experience of seeing a hitter in there and being able to execute. He did a good job of that today, and he’s done that the last couple of starts. It comes down to execution, and he’s executing as well as I’ve seen a pitcher.”

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