February 3, 2023

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'4 Uvalde': Pérez dedicates gem to city

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OAKLAND — Martín Pérez stood on the mound at the Oakland Coliseum for his 200th career start Friday night. The lefty said he didn’t even think about it and wasn’t aware until somebody brought it up to him before the game started.

“I just come here and always try to have the mentality to do what I can to try to perform good and help the team,” Pérez said.

Instead, Pérez said, he was thinking about the 21 lives that were lost in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. He wrote “4 Uvalde” on the side of his hat prior to his start.

“It’s hard to believe what happened there,” Pérez said. “I have kids, too. It’s really bad, what happened to those kids. We feel that because we all have family. … Every time I went out there, I said this is for the city. They have to stop this. It cannot continue to happen.”

Pérez, dedicating his performance to Uvalde, dazzled through seven innings of one-run ball opposite Oakland’s Frankie Montas. The lefty had just two walks to six strikeouts en route to his seventh straight quality start and a 4-1 win over the A’s.

He hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in a game since April 17 against the Angels, which was just his second start of the season.

It was a pitchers’ duel for most of the night, with the Rangers’ lone run coming off a bases-loaded walk by Andy Ibáñez in the second inning and the A’s only run coming off a wild pitch from Pérez in the fourth. Montas tore through Texas’ lineup with 11 strikeouts over seven innings.

The Rangers broke the 1-1 stalemate in the top of the ninth inning with an RBI double from Adolis García and a two-run homer from Nathaniel Lowe for some insurance.

In his last two starts against Oakland, both at the Coliseum, Pérez has allowed just one earned run over 13 innings for a 0.69 ERA and .133 opponent batting average.

“I think his ability to utilize the two types of fastballs,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said in explaining what made Pérez so effective. “He’s throwing his two-seamer and his cutter. … I haven’t seen that cutter in the past. I think he’s really perfected it. He throws it to both sides of the plate, which is difficult for hitters…He was backdooring that cutter tonight really effectively and keeping us honest inside with his two-seamer. He mixed in more changeups today. But I think that combination right now has him being really effective.”

Pérez said the key to his success this season has been simply throwing strikes and executing. While that may seem easier said than done, he’s performed with ease against whatever lineup he’s faced this year.

“I just like to make everything simple in this game,” he explained. “Because I think when you’re trying too much, it’s hard to get a good result. I just go pitch by pitch, and throw my pitch to try to get the last out and keep the game close.”

Pérez allowed just one earned run, bringing both his 13-inning scoreless streak and 25-inning road scoreless streak to an end. His 13 innings matched his own previous scoreless run from April 17-28 for longest by any Texas pitcher this season.

He opened the season with 25 consecutive scoreless innings on the road, a club record, surpassing the previous mark of 20 2/3 scoreless innings in away games to open the 2005 season.

Over his last two starts, Pérez has tossed 16 innings and allowed just one earned run, lowering his season ERA to 1.60. It is the second-lowest figure for a Texas pitcher in his first nine starts in a season, bettered by only Kenny Rogers in 1995 (1.49).

“It’s hard to sustain success, whether that’s on the offensive side or on the pitching side,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Especially with teams having so much to look at, the more success you have, the more they’re going to pick you apart but he’s got a unique mix. He doesn’t blow the radar gun up at 99. It’s 92, 93 and he gets it up to 95 when he needs it. But it’s just the way he pitches and when he executes pitches. I feel like he’s always in control. And I think that’s the hallmark of a really good pitcher.”

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