MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers starter Martin Perez had a 2-0 lead when he took the mound in the bottom of the first inning on Friday night at Target Field.
Five batters later, the Twins were leading 4-2 and on their way to an 8-4 victory over the Rangers, handing Perez his fourth straight loss. Overall, Perez is now 5-10 with a 5.46 ERA in 22 starts.
"It has been a little up and down," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "There are times he has pitched and competed very well, and other times where he was out of sync and his ball has not been sinking or running as it normally does. His changeup hasn't been as dynamic in those games."
This is not the season Perez was expecting, nor what the Rangers were hoping for in Spring Training. The Rangers were anticipating this would be a breakthrough year for Perez after his first full season back in 2016 from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Instead, he has gone backwards.
"I don't feel frustrated," Perez said. "Everybody has a bad year. This one is not over yet. It's how you finish and I need to finish strong."
Perez, whose best pitch is his sinker, is not getting as many ground balls as he has in the past. He had a 60.2 percent ground ball rate in 2015 and 54.3 in 2016, according to Statcast™. This year it has dropped to 46.1. That's not good, considering opponents have a .320 slugging percentage on grounders and .845 on fly balls and line drives against him.
"I'm a ground ball pitcher and they're hitting it hard," Perez said. "I'm not getting the outs on the ground balls. I may be doing something with my delivery or my mechanics. I want to come back tomorrow and watch the video. Maybe it's something I'm not doing every time. That's not an excuse. Let's see what we see on the video."
Perez started the night with two straight fastballs to James Dozier and the second one was hit out to center field for a leadoff home run. Perez struck out Eduardo Escobar but Miguel Sano singled, Joe Mauer drew a 10-pitch walk and Robbie Grossman followed with a three-run home run.
Perez thought he had strike three on the 3-2 pitch to Mauer, but didn't get the call from home plate umpire Ryan Blakney.
"You still have to compete and maintain composure," Banister said. "Those are situations Martin needs to stay focused and continue to make pitches. You can't let the situation get away from you."
Dozier added another home run in the second, but the back-breaker for the Rangers came in the fifth in a 5-3 game. The Twins had runners at second and third with two out when Perez gave up a two-run single to Eddie Rosario.
That was it for Perez.
"I'm good, man," Perez said. "I need to make some adjustments and do what I know I can do."