In his sixth MLB start, Pérez faced his most difficult test yet. During a 21-pitch third inning with the Marlins down 1-0, the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs. But the 20-year-old escaped the jam without allowing a run in Miami’s eventual 2-1 walk-off loss on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The defeat snapped the club’s six-game winning streak.
“I thought that was a huge moment for him and his development,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “He couldn't just out-stuff [batters], he had to actually pitch.”
Moments like that prove Pérez’s maturity is well beyond his years, something that enticed the Marlins to sign the lanky teenager out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.
Elvis Andrus reached on an infield hit and advanced to second on a throwing error by Jean Segura to start the inning. Tim Anderson then blooped a single to right and stole second. After Pérez walked Andrew Benintendi to load the bases with no outs, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. held a mound visit.
“We knew what we were going to attack them with,” catcher Nick Fortes said. “We knew what were the best pitches to go to guys, and we just stuck to the game plan, because the way we got in that situation was a little unlucky. It was an error and a bloop hit. So it's like not trying to change too much, because what got us in that position wasn't any fault of his own. So just continue to attack and use his best stuff.”
Stottlemyre told Pérez to work in his slider more to induce a double play. That didn’t happen, but Pérez did escape the jam while facing Chicago’s three through five hitters. Luis Robert Jr. struck out swinging at a slider, third baseman Segura snagged Andrew Vaughn’s liner and Yoan Moncada flied out to center.
The Marlins knew entering the series that the White Sox were an above-average chase club, so the battery of Pérez and Fortes decided to expand above and below the zone. Fortes made five crucial blocks as Pérez kept burying pitches, mixing in his four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball.
“I learned that you've got to stay in the zone,” Pérez said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “Once you start getting out of the zone, you get in trouble. And to trust my pitches. I’ve got to trust what I have. I can keep the ball in the park, and of course I trust all the guys behind me so they can get those outs. But it was more a matter of trusting yourself and not letting your mind get out of the game.”
Across five innings, Pérez surrendered just a solo homer to Yasmani Grandal in the second. He worked around a leadoff double in the first, stranded two runners in the fourth and capped his start with a perfect fifth.
"I wasn't frustrated we weren't scoring,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “I wasn't frustrated -- you know why? Because that's good pitching over there. These guys are running out really good arms and we know what type of baseball we have to play against these guys. It's two good teams with really good pitching. Both teams made really good pitches when they needed to."
With the organization monitoring his workload, Pérez was done after 82 pitches while tossing five innings for the third straight start. He has given up just one run during that span.
“Just a matter of learning experiences every start,” Pérez said. “You're going to get different situations, and that's what we mentioned before. Today, we had several situations in the game. It's a learning experience, so you’ve got to continue learning, continue growing with your teammates, and then trusting everybody right there, and then continue competing. And again, that level of trust will continue to grow every game.”