The Red Sox have the most wins in the Majors. Martín Pérez doesn’t have any of them, but he probably should.
With five innings of one-run ball on Monday, Pérez earned a no-decision in a 4-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.
The loss prevented the Red Sox (22-14) from clinching the four-game sweep, and it was the first time in 10 games between these teams in 2021 that the home team got the win.
“Everything was good tonight,” Pérez said regarding his stuff. “It feels good when you have this kind of outing.”
Including Monday's outing, Pérez -- Boston’s fifth starter -- has quietly strung together three solid starts (2.20 ERA in 16 1/3 innings over that span), but he has nothing to show for it in the win column. That’s because the Red Sox's league-best offense has struggled whenever he takes the mound.
The Red Sox entered the night leading the Majors in runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS and extra-base hits. But in Pérez’s seven starts, they’ve averaged just 3.4 runs per game, compared to 5.7 runs per game for everybody else. Pérez has a 4.01 ERA this year, but he also has four starts of five-plus innings and three or fewer runs allowed. And yet, no wins.
On Monday night, Pérez found himself in a bit of an unlikely pitchers' duel with Baltimore’s Jorge López, who was stung for seven runs in four innings when he faced Boston on April 11.
Pérez's only blemish came on the first pitch of the second inning, when he grooved a cutter into an inviting spot for Orioles designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle. The inning could’ve gotten worse, as two of the next three hitters reached safely, but Pérez struck out Pat Valaika and Ryan McKenna to avoid further damage.
Boston evened the score at 1-1 two innings later thanks to a sac fly from Rafael Devers. After a clean fifth inning, Pérez sat at 74 pitches, poised to return to the mound. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora went in a different direction.
With a slew of right-handers due up -- including Mountcastle -- Cora removed the left-handed Pérez in favor of righty reliever Matt Andriese. Trey Mancini was the first batter he faced, and Mancini greeted Andriese with the decisive solo shot.
Pérez has maxed out at 92 pitches this season, and he has yet to complete six innings. Physically, he felt “good” after five, but he said he “respects the decision” made by Cora.
“Sometimes you wanna go long in the game,” Pérez said, “but that’s not the manager’s plan.”
Part of Cora’s plan was an intentional avoidance of lefty/righty matchups. Part of it was that Andriese, who hadn’t thrown since earning the win Thursday, was ready to provide length from the bullpen. And another part was that Pérez had been given an opportunity to go deeper in his last start, but that opportunity backfired.
“We left him in against a righty and we got burned,” Cora said, referencing the two-run double Pérez allowed in the sixth inning of his previous start against the Tigers on Wednesday. “Today, we felt like five innings was perfect.”
With a nine-man bullpen and a supercharged offense, the Red Sox can typically survive on a diet of five-inning starts. They’ve received five-plus innings in 13 of their past 14 starts, and their place atop the American League East standings speaks for itself.
But Monday’s game offered anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Maybe Cora should’ve left Pérez in, maybe not. The point is, the Red Sox have a plan and they’re sticking to it.
“When we got to the eighth inning, they’d only scored two runs,” Cora said of the Orioles. “That’s the name of the game: Avoid runs and score runs. And today we didn’t score runs. But as far as the usage and all that, I don’t think that’s an issue right now. We manage the game as a group and we had a plan."