When the Texas Rangers signed Martin Perez as a free agent in March, it represented a reunion for the left-hander with the organization.
Perez made his major league debut with Texas in 2012 and pitched for the franchise until 2018. He spent 2019 with the Minnesota Twins, then was with the Boston Red Sox the past two years.
Now back with Texas, Perez (3-2) has been one of the majors’ biggest surprises. On Tuesday night, he’ll put his big-league-leading 1.60 ERA on the line when the Rangers face the Tampa Bay Rays in the second game of a four-game series in Arlington, Texas.
The Rangers took the opener 9-5 on Monday thanks in part to the heroics of Eli White. The center fielder stole a three-run homer from Ji-Man Choi in with a leaping catch at the wall in the first inning, then hit a two-run homer an inning later.
It was a painful loss for Tampa Bay because shortstop Wander Franco, who had three hits and two RBIs, was lifted for a pinch runner in the ninth inning. Franco has been bothered by an upper-right-quad ailment since mid-April.
“Same issue,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Quad issue. We’ll check with him (Tuesday). Wander has worked really hard to try to manage it. … We’ll see and evaluate where he is (Tuesday) morning.”
Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Monday and is hitting .370 (20-for-54) with three homers and 11 RBIs in his past 14 games.
The Rays are expected to go with an opener on Tuesday, likely left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (0-1, 3.98 ERA).
Yarbrough is expected to pitch in some capacity, whether it is starting or in relief. He last pitched on Thursday, giving up three runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings during a home loss to the New York Yankees.
Perez has been an a standout in his second stint with the Rangers. After the lockout ended, the lefty signed a one-year, $4 million contract. The deal has been a bargain.
“He doesn’t blow the radar gun up at 99 (mph),” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said after Perez’s latest start. “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.”
The 31-year-old has been especially tough to hit in May. In five starts this month, he is 3-0 with a 0.76 ERA, yielding just three earned runs in 35 1/3 innings. Batters have a .208 average against him in May.
The Rays are hitting .231 with a .654 OPS against left-handed starters this season, slightly worse than their .236 average and .688 OPS vs. right-handed starters.
Perez gave up one run and struck out six in seven innings in his most recent start, a no-decision against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. Before that, he went the distance and blanked the Houston Astros on May 20. He scattered eight hits in that game.
However, he has a poor career record against the Rays: 2-6 with a 6.03 ERA in 16 career games (13 starts).
On Monday, the Rangers made a couple of roster moves, including placing infielder Brad Miller (right-hip impingement) on the 10-day injured list. Josh H. Smith, ranked by MLB.com as Texas’ No. 7 prospect, was promoted from Triple-A Round Rock. He started at third base and collected three hits in his major league debut.
–Field Level Media