Adrian Beltre didn't mince words Sunday after the Texas Rangers were swept out of Oakland and saw their playoff hopes all but disappear (video by Jeff Wilson). Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com
Adrian Beltre didn't mince words Sunday after the Texas Rangers were swept out of Oakland and saw their playoff hopes all but disappear (video by Jeff Wilson). Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com

Texas Rangers

Is big 2018 looming for Perez despite Sunday slip?

September 24, 2017 07:23 PM

UPDATED September 24, 2017 07:57 PM

OAKLAND, Calif.

No matter what happened Sunday and what is to happen Friday, the final two months of Martin Perez’s 2017 season are going to be remembered as one of the best stretches of his career.

Those final two months started with a stinker against the Minnesota Twins, the team the Rangers can’t catch for the second wild card, but beginning Aug. 9 and entering Sunday, Perez was 7-1 with a 3.15 ERA in nine starts.

The stretch followed consecutive months in which he posted a 6.30 ERA.

The turnaround is tied to a change in his mechanics and a change in his approach. He was always told and always said that he needed to attack hitters, but now he’s actually doing it.

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The resulting successes have helped keep the Rangers afloat in their playoff chase and given him a leg up on 2018. While his focus is on finishing 2017 strong, he is eager to see if he can carry his hot finish over 30-plus starts.

If he can, the Rangers will finally have the pitcher they have always envisioned.

“I know that I can do a good job for the team, and they’ve waited for my talent to do what I’ve been doing,” Perez said. “I found a way how to throw more strikes and how to get through the inning when I get problems. I’m trying to stay positive, and I’ve never lost my mind or never lost my focus. Now’s my time to do good things for the team.”

Buechele breaks down Rangers' woes Sunday, all season at Oakland

Acting manager Steve Buechele talks about the Texas Rangers' lost weekend at Oakland, where they were swept to finish 1-8 this season at Oakland Coliseum (video by Jeff Wilson).

Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com

Perez did well enough Sunday over four innings before the Oakland A’s scored five times against him in the fifth en route to an 8-1 victory and a three-game sweep that all but ends the Rangers’ playoff hopes.

They are 5  1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second wild card and can be eliminated from contention as early as Tuesday.

But to Perez’s point, he struggled early Sunday with his command, walking four in the first two innings, but Oakland didn’t score as Perez kept his cool and kept the ball on the ground.

The A’s finally got to him in the fifth, an inning they opened with one hit. But they collected five hits while Perez got only two outs, with the big blow a two-run homer by Khris Davis.

“He wasn’t nearly as sharp as he has been his last couple outings,” acting manager Steve Buechele said.

Despite the four walks, Perez has been attacking hitters with more conviction than ever. He has finally convinced himself that his stuff is good enough to routinely get hitters out when he’s throwing it around the plate.

He’s forcing hitters to commit to swing rather than throwing pitches that hitters know will be balls as soon as they leave his hand.

Robinson Chirinos, who often catches his fellow Venezuelan, said that Perez has developed tunnel vision.

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The Texas Rangers have lost seven straight games at Oakland Coliseum, and Elvis Andrus can't put a finger on the reason (video by Jeff Wilson).

Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com

“For me, the biggest difference has been he’s attacking the strike zone,” Chirinos said. “He’s throwing more pitches that look like strikes, even his breaking pitches and his changeup. He’s throwing in that tunnel where hitters commit to swing. When he gets in trouble, he’s throwing pitches not even close to the strike zone.”

The stuff — beginning with his sinker but including a changeup, curveball and slider — has always been good enough.

“All of his pitches are really good,” Chirinos said. “But in this league you have to be able to throw in that tunnel and make hitters commit to swing. As a player, you go through a process learning yourself. I think he figured out he’s not a strikeout pitcher. He’s a groundball pitcher, and he’s throwing the ball and letting hitters swing the bat.”

The start against the Twins, in which he allowed seven runs in 4  2/3 innings, was an eye-opener for Perez. Initially, he thought he had found a mechanical flaw that showed he was tipping his pitches. But he has also added a more fluid delivery and a quicker tempo between pitches.

He has encountered trouble, like Aug. 19 when he allowed five first-inning runs to the Chicago White Sox. Rather than let the start get really out of hand, Perez allowed only one run over the next five innings, and the Rangers rallied to a 17-7 victory.

“I can be good mentally, but if I don’t feel good with my delivery, I can’t do my job,” he said.

The strong finish has all but assured he will be back next season. The Rangers were likely going to exercise the $6 million club option they hold for 2018 anyway, with the club facing three rotation vacancies this off-season, but now it’s a no-brainer and looks like a value.

Perez is intent on making good on it. He knows what his success looks like and feels like, and is eager to see how it translates over 30-plus starts next season.

“I want to finish and have the feeling that I have right now,” Perez said. “I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep working and doing the things on my delivery and prepare myself for my next season.”

Texas

000

000

100

1

3

1

Oakland

000

052

01x

8

10

0

Texas AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

DeShields cf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.272

Choo rf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.263

Calhoun lf

1

0

0

0

0

1

.071

Andrus ss

4

0

1

0

0

0

.297

Beltre dh

3

0

0

0

0

0

.310

Mazara lf-rf

3

1

1

1

0

1

.255

Gallo 1b

2

0

0

0

1

1

.206

Chirinos c

2

0

0

0

0

1

.256

Nicholas ph-c

1

0

0

0

0

0

.298

Odor 2b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.205

Gosselin 2b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.136

Robinson 3b

2

0

0

0

0

1

.202

Middlebrooks 3b

1

0

0

0

0

1

.179

Totals 29

1

3

1

1

8

Oakland AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Semien ss

5

0

1

1

0

1

.256

Chapman 3b

5

1

2

2

0

0

.230

Lowrie 2b

3

1

1

2

1

0

.278

Davis lf

3

1

1

2

1

0

.242

Olson 1b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.259

Joyce ph-rf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.237

Healy dh

3

0

0

0

1

1

.270

Canha rf-1b

3

2

1

0

0

1

.223

Phegley c

3

2

2

1

1

0

.208

Smolinski cf

4

1

2

0

0

0

.333

Totals 33

8

10

8

4

3

E—Mazara (5). LOB—Texas 2, Oakland 6. 2B—Chapman 2 (21), Phegley (11). HR—Mazara (20), off Castro; Davis (41), off Perez. RBIs—Mazara (97), Semien (36), Chapman 2 (36), Lowrie 2 (67), Davis 2 (105), Phegley (10). DP—Texas 1; Oakland 1.

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Perez, L, 12-12

4 2/3

6

5

5

4

2

92

4.83

Barnette

1

3

2

2

0

1

29

4.74

Rodriguez

 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

3

7.36

Griffin

2

1

1

1

0

0

22

5.38

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Cotton, W, 9-10

5

1

0

0

1

6

77

5.58

Castro

1 2/3

2

1

1

0

0

28

4.59

Coulombe

 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

4

3.60

Casilla

1

0

0

0

0

1

14

4.26

Hendriks

1

0

0

0

0

1

9

4.31

Inherited runners-scored—Rodriguez 1-0. HBP—Griffin (Canha). WP—Griffin. T—2:45. A—18,601 (37,090).

Rangers vs. Astros

7:05 p.m. Monday, FSSW