Martin Perez is in a zone rarely seen. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 26 innings and has complete games in his last two starts. His consecutive three-hit shutouts are a first in franchise history, and the scoreless streak is the fifth-best in club history.
How did the left-hander, in just his second season in the majors, take it to another level to start 2014?
“Experience,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “He’s got a lot more confidence in himself and his abilities. He keeps the ball down, gets a lot of ground balls. He’s just executing his pitches and carrying out a good game plan.”
Perez (4-0) faces Oakland for the second time in a week Tuesday night. He held the A’s to three hits and two walks a week ago and lowered his ERA to 1.42, tied for fifth-lowest in the majors.
“[I’ll use the] same approach,” Perez said. “Throw the ball down and attack the hitters. That’s all. Using all my pitches and throw quality pitches.”
Throwing four pitches for strikes, including a sinking fastball to great effect, has allowed him to get ahead of hitters and produce quick outs. He threw 109 pitches in both his complete games and 107 in an eight-inning win against Houston on April 13.
“I’ve got a good tempo, and I just wait for my day and do the same every five days and go out there and compete,” said Perez. “Yeah, it’s good. Nah, no pressure. Just do what I have to do to win the game.”
Complete games, especially in back-to-back starts, is a rarity in today’s game. Perez is the first to throw consecutive three-hit shutouts or better since Roy Oswalt did it for the Astros in 2008.
Maddux says Perez is simply executing his pitches and keeping them down in the zone.
“That’s his big ticket,” he said. “It’s tougher to pitch now than it’s ever been. It’s the evolution of the game. The hitters are more conditioned; they’re better; they’re stronger. There’s no secrets. There’s video. Before, it was all hearsay.”
Perez will need a little “luck and destiny” to keep throwing up the same numbers the rest of the season, Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
“Who knows, he might go out there next time and execute all over the place and things don’t fall into place. You don’t know,” Washington said. “In this game you can do a lot of things right and get a lot of bad results. He can continue this for the next 25 starts, and somewhere along the line he’s still going to get some bad results. That’s just the game of baseball. If he stays healthy he has a chance to pitch real good [the rest of the season].”