There has been much adulation showered on the Texas Rangers’ farm system the past few years, and it is beginning to make an impact at the big-league level.
Friday night provided a perfect example as two of the top-rated prospects played key roles in a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on the first 100-degree night at Rangers Ballpark.
Martin Perez, long considered the top pitching prospect in the system, had his second consecutive dominant start and led the way to a second straight shutout by the pitching staff.
He was backed by impressive defense all night, especially two nice plays by top prospect Jurickson Profar.
“We’ve seen Profar do his thing for a little while, but Perez is coming into his own,” David Murphy said. “What everybody has been talking about for a long time has been seen in his last two starts. He can definitely help us the second half if he’s pitching like that.”
Perez opened with a perfect first inning before giving up singles to Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to start the second inning. But he induced a double-play grounder by Todd Frazier in the next at-bat, and retired Chris Heisey on a flare to shallow center that Ian Kinsler tracked down.
“Very important inning,” Perez said. “After that, I just continued to attack the zone and make quality pitches.”
Perez retired nine straight at one point, including two on diving stops by Profar. In the third, Profar backhanded a sharp grounder that took him into shallow left field and threw out Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco for the first out. Then, with two outs in the fourth, he made a diving stop to rob Phillips of a single.
“Tremendous,” manager Ron Washington said of Profar’s defense. “He had the awareness to put the ball in the dirt [on the Mesoraco throw] because he knew he couldn’t get it there in the air. The kid can play. He certainly can help us win some ballgames.”
Perez didn’t allow a base runner again until Frazier singled with one out in the fifth. Once again, though, Perez got a double-play grounder to end the threat.
The Reds had a runner reach with one out in the sixth, but Perez struck out the next two. He ran into his biggest jam in the seventh.
Perez gave up singles to Joey Votto and Phillips to start the inning, retired the next two batters but then issued a four-pitch walk to Heisey to load the bases.
That ended his night, but reliever Jason Frasor bailed him out by getting Mesoraco to ground out.
It was an impressive encore performance by Perez, who held the Cardinals to two runs over seven innings last Saturday. Two games aren’t enough to say Perez has arrived, but he’s certainly shown significant signs of progress.
“I just want to keep it going,” Perez said.
Frasor worked a scoreless eighth and Robbie Ross pitched around a one-out single in the ninth to complete the shutout.
Perez had the luxury of pitching with the lead all night, and Profar helped in that department as well by scoring a run and driving in a run.
The Rangers snapped their 19-game first-inning scoreless drought with a run off Johnny Cueto in the first. Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on a broken-bat single by Adrian Beltre.
Cueto started the second inning but exited with tightness in his right lat after throwing a 1-2 fastball to Mitch Moreland. Tony Cingrani entered and struck out Moreland on one pitch, but that was his lone highlight in a 38-pitch inning.
Profar drew a one-out walk and Murphy followed with a single up the middle to put runners at the corners. Leonys Martin struck out, but Ian Kinsler drew a full-count walk to load the bases.
Cingrani walked the next two batters, and Profar and Murphy scored to make it a 3-0 game. The Rangers extended their lead to 4-0 in the fifth on an RBI single by Profar.
“They were just locked in and didn’t chase anything outside the strike zone,” Washington said. “We did a good job of being patient.”