OAKLAND -- Rangers left-hander Martin Perez is back and close to throwing the way he did last season.If that continues to be the case, it would be a huge boost for the Rangers and their rotation. The first step was showing there are no remaining ill effects from his offseason
OAKLAND -- Rangers left-hander Martin Perez is back and close to throwing the way he did last season.
If that continues to be the case, it would be a huge boost for the Rangers and their rotation. The first step was showing there are no remaining ill effects from his offseason ranch mishap, and Perez did just that in a 6-3 victory over the Athletics on Thursday afternoon.
"He seems to be right where he was last year," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He came out throwing a ton of strikes. They had 10 hits, but six were ground balls. He was still able to keep the ball on the ground. What I loved most is he continued to pound the strike zone and nothing rattled him."
Perez is successful when he throws strikes, keeps the ball down and gets early contact. That's what he did at the end of last season, when he went 8-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his last 11 starts. The Rangers were eager to see that again in his first start, especially coming back from offseason surgery on his broken right elbow.
Perez showed it. He threw 52 of 76 pitches for strikes, did not walk a batter and struck out one.
"It was good for me and the team today," Perez said. "I didn't have my best stuff, but I could compete and give our relievers a chance to do their jobs."
The Rangers led 4-0 after two innings, but needed five relievers to hold off an Athletics comeback. Shin-Soo Choo gave Texas some breathing room in the ninth with a two-run home run off reliever Chris Hatcher. It was the Rangers' first home run of the season with a runner on base.
"It was probably the biggest hit we've had so far this season," Banister said.
This was only the fourth time Perez has faced hitters returning from the injury. He pitched two games in Spring Training and one simulated game in the Minor Leagues. This one was for real.
"I had fun," Perez said. "It's good to come back from surgery and help the team win. I had the same feeling as I did last year and I want to keep that going. I wanted to come out this year throwing strikes and I think I did a great job doing that today."
The bullpen rewarded Perez with a win after he exited the game leading 4-2, with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth. Kevin Jepsen took over and allowed one run on a sacrifice fly. The big moment came in the seventh, when Matt Bush and Jake Diekman kept it a one-run game by working out of a first-and-third one-out jam without allowing a run to score.
Chris Martin and Keone Kela followed with a pair of scoreless innings and the Rangers bullpen has a collective ERA of 2.54 ERA after eight games.
"I feel like we all did our job today," Diekman said. "Everybody came in and got the outs we needed."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bush, Diekman respond: Trailing by a run, the A's got a rally started in the seventh against Bush when Pinder walked and went to third on Jed Lowrie's third hit of the day, a single. Bush came back to strike out Davis before Diekman took over. Diekman struck out Matt Olson and got Matt Chapman, swinging at a 3-0 pitch, on a grounder to third to end the threat.
"That was possibly the game right there for us," Banister said.
Mazara throws out Piscotty: With one out in the eighth, Oakland outfielder Stephen Piscotty lined one fair down the right-field line and into the Rangers' bullpen. He tried for a double, but right fielder Nomar Mazara got to the ball quickly before unleashing a perfect throw to get Piscotty at second.
"I know they have big foul territory here so I didn't have to worry about running into a wall," Mazara said. "I got a good jump. I wasn't rushed. I just wanted to make sure I grabbed the ball firmly and made a good throw."
Ruthless bunt: The Rangers picked up their first run in the second when Rougned Odor, with runners at the corners, smashed a comebacker off A's starter Daniel Mengden's right heel for an infield single. Mengden went down on the play, was attended to by trainer Nick Paparesta and stayed in the game. The Rangers immediately bunted on him. Ryan Rua dropped a sacrifice and Mengden threw wildly to first. Two runs scored and Rua went to third, before scoring on a single by Drew Robinson.
"The game plan going in was if we had situations in the lower tier of the order, we were going to set up RBI situations with the sacrifice bunt," Banister said. "It had nothing to do with Mengden taking the ball off his leg. We were bunting anyway."
"Rickey talked to me about it the other day. He told me I had enough hits, it was time to retire." -- Adrian Beltre, who was 2-for-3 on Thursday to pass Rod Carew and tie Rickey Henderson on the all-time hit list
• Beltre sets Latin American hits record
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Rangers were thrown out twice trying to steal against former teammate Jonathan Lucroy. The former Ranger, who was traded to the Rockies on July 30 last season, had two stolen bases against him by the Rangers on Monday, but has thrown out five straight since then.
Matt Moore will be on the mound for the Rangers when they open a three-game series against the Blue Jays at 7:05 p.m. CT Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers are 11-22 against the Blue Jays in the regular season over the past five seasons in addition to losing the AL Division Series in 2015 and '16.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.