OAKLAND -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward said he knew coming into Saturday afternoon's game against the A’s that starting pitcher Martín Pérez was going to have a good day. Everything to that point had worked in his favor: the matchups with a heavy right-handed lineup, his execution in his bullpens and just the look in his eyes on the mound.
And Woodward was right.
Pérez had the best start by a Rangers pitcher this season, and it wasn’t particularly close. The lefty tossed six innings of scoreless ball, allowing just two hits and one walk against five strikeouts. While Pérez was the only Rangers starter to log multiple defeats this season, having taken the loss in each of his first two starts, he took the no-decision as the Rangers grinded to a 2-0 victory over the A’s at the Coliseum to clinch the series.
“I love the way he carries himself [and] the way he executes,” Woodward said. “You could see from that first inning, he had that look in his eye that just said, ‘I'm gonna go out and pitch well.’ He was painting right on that outside corner, especially with some of those backdoor cutters, and he's always got the sinker and changeup to go with it. So right from the beginning, I knew and you could tell he had his good stuff.”
It was Pérez's second career start with six or more scoreless innings and two or fewer hits allowed. The last came against Toronto in 2019, when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins. It was also the first time that Pérez went a full six innings since July 25, 2021.
Pérez said he felt good going into the game, and he was working hard to pound the strike zone to induce weak ground balls. Of the 21 batters he faced, 10 hit into ground-ball outs.
“If you throw a lot of strikes, good things are going to happen,” Pérez said. “It’s hard when you go around the zone and walk too many guys. Today, I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and they were missing my changeup a lot. I just keep throwing to get the results. … I think it took me a couple games to figure it out, but I think today was a great game. I feel good, and I’m ready for my next one.”
Woodward added that he felt like Glenn Otto set the tone for Pérez and the rest of the pitching staff in Friday's win. Texas struggled in the first week of the season as its starters could not work deep into games as a result of pitch limits due to the shortened Spring Training.
Both Woodward and Pérez agreed that the staff is in a better place now than it had been to start the season. It showed as the combination of Pérez, Brock Burke, Brett Martin and Matt Bush tossed the Rangers’ first shutout since Sept. 6, 2021, against the Angels.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Pérez said. “We’re supposed to go out and put up zeros [and] give a chance to our hitters to score some runs. Everybody was on the same page. We just need to stay attacking and throw a lot of strikes. Today was a great game, and I think everybody was pumped to get the win.”
It was an all-around win for the Rangers as Pérez and A’s starter Frankie Montas engaged in a pitching duel through the afternoon.
The offense got off to a slow start against Montas and didn’t log a hit until the fifth inning. Texas finally got things moving in the eighth, when back-to-back one-out singles from Adolis García and Willie Calhoun set up Brad Miller for a game-deciding two-RBI single.
There was slight controversy in that inning as Eli White, who was pinch-running for Calhoun, was initially called out at the plate, but a crew chief review overturned the call, dinging A’s catcher Sean Murphy for interference.
“It was the way we won,” Woodward said. “Montas was absolutely filthy, as well as Martín Pérez. From that first, second inning on it was like, no hits, nobody on base for the first six batters. You just think, ‘Oh, boy, we're gonna have to really fight and grind to win this game,' and we did that.”