Gil LeBreton

May 10, 2014

A night after Yu-phoria, Perez delivers doubt

With Washington’s team lately, it’s been either Yu-phoria or concern.

Uh-oh. Trouble with the curve.

Trouble with Martin Perez’s fastball, too, from the looks of it.

For the lefty Perez, the pitching woes continued Saturday night. For the third consecutive start, he was roughed up early and dug the Texas Rangers into an unscalable hole.

The Boston Red Sox rocked Perez for nine hits and six runs and went on to the defeat the Rangers 8-3.

Remember the Yu-phoria on Friday night, when Yu Darvish came within one out of a no-hitter?

This was nothing like that. This one, instead, looked like a relapse of the recent nine-game stretch that jettisoned the Rangers from first place.

An early deficit. Struggles with men on base. The Rangers were 1 for 6 Saturday with runners in scoring position.

By the end of the fourth inning, Perez, 23 years young, was gone and Boston lefty Jon Lester seemed to be in no mood to give anything back.

So what’s with Perez, who was so efficient through his first five starts?

What’s with most of the rotation, still adrift after the nine-game stretch in which it gave up 80 hits and 44 earned runs?

“We can pitch,” manager Ron Washington said before the game, “but then again, we’ve got youth.

“Remember — Martin has never had his ears pinned back since he’s been up here in the big leagues. He’s had nothing but success.”

Pitching in only his second complete season, Perez’s early prosperity was no fluke. Three of his four victories came against Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics.

What Washington was implying is that Perez, for the first time in his young career, is going to have to work to figure things out.

Young Robbie Ross, who pitches today, has been going through the same growing pains.

“First three games out, he never had his ears pinned back,” Washington said.

“Harry [Matt Harrison] and Colby [Lewis], they know how to fight because they’ve been there before. But we have a few guys in that rotation — Tanner Scheppers can be included —that have never been there.

“It’s an experience, and you find out a lot when you go through some of the things that they’ve gone through.”

The problem is that the Rangers’ record has fallen to 19-18, as they continue to spin their wheels in the American League West.

But it’s only 37 games. Washington thinks that’s early enough for Ross and Perez to have time to adjust.

“When they’ve recovered,” Wash suggested, “they’ll know how to sustain a little longer. And there’s going to be a time when it happens again, but then it won’t last as long.

“It’s called experience.”

Perez faced 23 Boston hitters Saturday, and 14 reached base. He was bailed out in the second inning when catcher Rob Chirinos threw out David Ross stealing and center fielder Leonys Martin cut down Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate.

For now, there appear to be no plans to replace either him or Ross in the rotation. Perez is still considered a vital piece in the rotation’s quest for the playoffs — this season and beyond.

Ross is another issue. Veteran Joe Saunders threw 84 pitches in another rehab start Saturday night at Double A Frisco. Either Saunders or Nick Martinez could push a struggling Ross into a relief role.

Washington and the Rangers can afford to be patient because they have managed to remain in the Athletics’ rearview mirror.

But there is reason for concern. As Washington said, things have seemed to come in bunches this season.

“It’s the kind of team I got,” he said. “We all go bad at the same time. We all go good at the same time.”

One night it’s Yu-phoria. Next night ... uh-oh.

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