Perez shuts out White Sox in opening rout
Lefty allows three hits with eight strikeouts; Martin leads 12-run attack
ARLINGTON -- With Martin Perez, Yu Darvish and Robbie Ross leading the way, the Rangers pitching staff has accomplished the near-impossible. After 17 games, the Rangers have one more shutout than they do walk-off victories.
That seems almost as unlikely as, say, Robinson Chirinos leading the team in home runs, but that's where the Rangers are after Martin Perez pitched his first career shutout in a 12-0 victory over the White Sox on Friday night.
The Rangers, who have four walk-off wins, now have five shutouts in their first 17 games. The only other American League teams to have accomplished that since divisional play began in 1969 are the Orioles from that year, the 1981 Rangers and the 1990 Brewers. Perez has been a part of two of those shutouts and has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings.
"He was awesome, just attacking the strike zone, competing and getting people out," Chirinos said.
Perez, staked to a 9-0 lead after three innings, allowed three hits and a walk while striking out eight. He is 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA and the Rangers have won all four of his starts.
"If I continue to do what I'm doing, this could be a big year for me," Perez said. "My sinker was working in the first inning, and after that I was able to throw the ball where I wanted it."
The sinker is his best pitch and part of the simple answer as to why Perez is off to a great start. He is keeping the ball down in the strike zone, whether it's the sinker, his changeup or the breaking ball.
"He's just being consistent keeping the ball down," manager Ron Washington said. "He's using his breaking ball, he's using his changeup and he's moving the ball around. He's attacking, he's getting quick outs and he's keeping the ball down."
The Rangers supported Perez with a season-high 18 hits, including the first three-hit games in the Major Leagues for Chirinos and Jim Adduci. Leonys Martin also had three hits, including a triple and a home run, and drove in four runs. Prince Fielder was on base in all five plate appearances with two hits and three walks.
Adduci, who grew up on the south side of Chicago and went to high school 20 minutes from U.S. Cellular Field, was in the starting lineup for the first time this season.
"It was a lot of fun," Adduci said. "It was pretty special playing against the White Sox, being from the south side of Chicago. I know a lot of people were watching, so I was pretty excited to be able to contribute and play like that."
The Rangers were able to scratch out a couple of runs off White Sox starter Felipe Paulino in the first and then broke it open with seven runs in the third. Paulino had to endure it for as long as possible, because White Sox pitching has been overworked and utility infielder Leury Garcia had to pitch on Wednesday night.
Elvis Andrus started the rally in the first with a one-out walk and went to third on a single by Alex Rios. When center fielder Adam Eaton missed the cutoff man throwing to third, Rios went to second.
Fielder was intentionally walked for the seventh time this season, tying the club record for most in one month, along with Juan Gonzalez in July 1996. Kevin Kouzmanoff drove in one run with an infield single and Adduci brought home another with a slow bouncer to first.
"We're just grinding out at-bats throughout the lineup," Washington said. "That's what we've been doing lately. That's what it takes and we've been able to do that lately."
All seven runs in the third inning came across with two out. Fielder led off the inning with a walk and Adduci followed with a single to right. After Donnie Murphy flied out, Martin lined a triple down the right-field line to bring home the first two runs. Chirinos followed with a two-run home run. It was his second home run of the year, giving him the club lead. Nobody else has hit more than one.
"I'll take it for now," Chirinos said. "I just want to help the team every time I play and I did that tonight."
The Rangers weren't done. After Shin-Soo Choo kept the rally going with a double to left, the Rangers ended up scoring three more as Rios had a two-run single and Fielder had an RBI double. Martin added his first home run of the year in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth.
By then Perez was cruising and the Rangers didn't have to worry about another walk-off win. Instead, it was just a matter of seeing if Perez could stay focused for nine innings and complete the shutout. He did just that in 109 pitches.
"There were a couple of batters where it looked like he was beginning to lose it," Washington said. "But Chirinos did a good job of helping him get it together and he got back into the mode of making them swing the bat."