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Perez hit hard as Twins fall in rubber game

Left-hander struggling to prevent homers, allows three vs. Braves
@dohyoungpark
August 7, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins turned a triple play behind Martin Pérez two weeks ago, he couldn’t contain his excitement, raising his arm high and yelling as he strode off the mound. His mood after his defense gave him another triple play on Wednesday was noticeably more subdued. At that

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins turned a triple play behind Martin Pérez two weeks ago, he couldn’t contain his excitement, raising his arm high and yelling as he strode off the mound. His mood after his defense gave him another triple play on Wednesday was noticeably more subdued.

At that point, the triple play in the third inning was just damage control for the veteran left-hander, who had already allowed six runs in two-plus innings as he dealt with a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Without it, his outing might still have been worse than the season-high seven runs (six earned) that he allowed in six innings in the Twins’ 11-7 loss to the Braves at Target Field.

Box score

“The triple plays do help,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I can't remember seeing very many of them ever, but the two of them this year have been definitely helpful for us and for Martin. We'll take it as far as that getting three outs on a pitch. But that being said, it did buy us a little bit more time and some more pitches and some more innings.”

With Devin Smeltzer getting continued opportunities to prove his mettle as a starter, Perez’s continued struggles -- including a 5.87 ERA since the start of June -- could leave the Twins with a decision when Michael Pineda likely returns from the injured list next week.

After Wednesday’s game, Baldelli made no indication that there would be any change to Perez’s routine.

“He’s going to go out there and prepare for his next outing, and we’ll talk and figure things out and line everything up,” Baldelli said.

Confident since the day he arrived in the Twins’ Spring Training clubhouse in February, Perez felt that he was missing with some of his pitches early in the game but was still encouraged by his final three innings, during which he allowed three singles and a homer but also recorded all six of his strikeouts.

“I know that I've been trending down, but I believe in myself and I trust my stuff,” Perez said. “I know good things are coming, and I've just got to be ready for when those days come and go out there and show my teammates and the fans and the organization what I do."

Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back homers to key a three-run first inning, and things unraveled in that messy third inning that featured three hits, a passed ball, two balls that bounced off the gloves of Twins infielders, and a bases-loaded walk -- during part of which a severe weather siren test blared ominously in the background.

Albies later tacked on another homer in the sixth inning, capping a four-hit game, as Perez was tagged for three long balls for the third time in his last four starts. Perez had only allowed seven homers in his first 18 outings but has more than doubled that total since, allowing 11 dingers over his last five starts, including Wednesday’s effort.

“Most of the time, it comes down to just execution,” Baldelli said. “When you make good pitches, it’s difficult for hitters to really put good swings on the ball. Some of these pitches are probably right in the middle of the plate, but some of them aren't, and really, sometimes, it comes down to a really good hitter putting a good swing on the ball.”

The left-hander’s new cutter, once a reliable weapon at the start of the season, only generated one whiff on Wednesday, and Braves hitters tagged it for four hits -- including a homer.

Perez thinks that the cutter is moving more than it once was and hopes to address the pitch as part of his continued adjustments moving forward.

“My mind is strong, and I'm going to stay strong,” Perez said. “I know that I've got a lot that I have to give to this team, and I need to continue to believe in myself and in me and in my stuff. I know good things are coming, because I felt something different in my last three innings.”

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.