ARLINGTON -- Martín Pérez’s pitch count crept up late in his outing Friday night.
After an efficient first four innings, a 13-pitch battle with Rockies rookie Ezequiel Tovar in the fifth, followed by three doubles and a single from Colorado hitters in the sixth, saw the pitch count creep into the 90s.
But with a struggling bullpen, Texas' starting staff was once again tasked with going as deep as possible to prevent another potential late game disaster. Pérez rose to the occasion, as he often has. The southpaw completed a 1-2-3 seventh inning to finish off a seven-strikeout, two-run gem as the Rangers defeated the Rockies, 7-2, to open the three-game set.
“Tonight I felt good,” Pérez said postgame. “I was locating all my pitches, getting my cutter down and away and my sinker up and in. I feel good, I pitched a good game. … I feel happy that I figured some things out and [could] throw a good game tonight.”
Rockies manager Bud Black emphasized that Pérez’s fastball-changeup combination contributed to his effectiveness against Colorado’s hitters. The lefty used 41 sinkers, 32 cutters and 26 changeups in the win, getting six of his 10 whiffs on the changeup.
“I mean, [he had] a really good seven solid innings,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “In the sixth, he had some bad luck that inning. But he went back out, and his stuff actually picked up the last couple of innings. He had better command, and I think he could use both sides of the plate a little bit more tonight, a little better. I think that was the difference in certain spots.”
It was a brilliant bounce-back effort from Pérez after a couple of rough outings in which he allowed a combined 11 runs on 16 hits in 8 2/3 innings against the Angels and A’s.
“In those two previous games, I said when he missed he was missing just a tad off,” Bochy said. “We had no concern with him, trust me. It's good to see him go out there and give some great effort like he did.”
When Bochy pushed the rotation back a day during the series against the Braves earlier in the homestand, he said he wanted to give his pitchers an extra day to rest and figure things out. That additional day helped Pérez right some things in his delivery.
Everything was just “off” as a whole, he said.
So in the seven days since his last start in Oakland, Pérez and pitching coach Mike Maddux identified a mechanical issue with his release point that was preventing him from executing to his best ability. The struggles with the release point caused minor blisters on his throwing fingers, which Pérez emphasized were not lingering any longer.
“My release point was just not what it used to be,” Pérez explained. “I was a little slow with my arm and not finished with the ball in front of my eyes. … I was just trying to be more quick with my throwing arm and trying to move my feet more quickly, because I think that's where I got my timing. I was working really hard for the last seven days to fix [it]. And tonight, that was all that I was looking for.”
“The way that I pitch, everything has to be quick with the release. When I throw the ball, everything has got to be together. Everything was fine [everywhere else], but my hands were still behind.”
The quick fix to his release produced the return of the Pérez that the Rangers have come to know in his second stint with the club. Before that rough West Coast road trip, Pérez was as consistent as could be. He hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his first six starts to open the season, sitting at a 2.41 ERA before the woes hit.
But regardless of how his season started or how it was going for a bit, Pérez believes that he’s fully back on track.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I mean, tonight I was throwing all my pitches where and when I wanted. That’s not lucky. That’s just the way I know how to pitch now. So I’m back."