Perez shaky in Rangers rotation return as D’backs strike early

Martin Perez stood at his locker and gave an honest assessment of his season debut for the Texas Rangers. He fell behind too many batters, he struggled to close out innings with two outs and he simply didn’t execute his pitches.

The opposite can be said for Tyler Skaggs, who pitched out of trouble early and often in his season debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Rangers’ offense eventually found its stride once Skaggs exited, but a late ninth-inning rally wasn’t enough in a 5-3 loss to the D’backs in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader at Chase Field.

The Rangers were hoping to split the doubleheader with Yu Darvish starting Game 2, which started at 8:40 p.m. Texas time.

Perez and the Rangers offered no excuses for the first game. Perez said his left arm has fully recovered from a spring training injury, and Elvis Andrus said the extra-inning game Sunday and ensuing early wake-up call had nothing to do with their sluggish start.

“I hate giving excuses,” Andrus said. “It’s not the first time we got in late or played extra innings. They played better than us. They beat us. We have to turn the page and get the second one.”

Perez dug himself an early hole. He gave up a two-out RBI single to Martin Prado in the first, and then allowed two runs (one earned) with two outs in the second on RBI hits by A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt.

Perez needed 49 pitches to get through the first two innings, but then worked two scoreless innings before Cody Ross sent a changeup into the left-field seats in the fifth inning.

“I was behind in the count every time to every hitter, so it’s not good,” said Perez, the 22-year-old left-hander regarded as the Rangers’ best pitching prospect.

“I have to attack the zone early. I missed too much in the zone today, and hung a couple of pitches.”

Perez started the sixth, but issued a one-out walk to Cliff Pennington and a single to pinch-hitter Jason Kubel to end his day. He took the loss, and has lost his last four big league starts.

But Perez wasn’t too concerned about his past results. After all, he had the inside track to be the Rangers’ fifth starter in spring training before a liner broke his left arm. He had made only four starts in the minor leagues prior to his big league call-up.

“I don’t have any problems with my arm,” Perez said. “The problem today was I didn’t throw enough strikes. It’s OK. I’m young and I’m going to learn. I just want to recover and be ready for the next opportunity they give me.”

Skaggs, another top-rated prospect, managed to pitch out of jams over six scoreless innings. The Rangers had base runners reach the first five innings, but never capitalized.

Skaggs scattered three hits with three walks and nine strikeouts for his second career win.

“We were a little stale there in the beginning,” manager Ron Washington said. “We needed to get a base hit and we just didn’t. That happens in the game. If it was our kid out there doing that, we’d be jumping up and hooray-ing.”

The Rangers almost had a reason to celebrate as they rallied in the ninth inning and had the go-ahead run at the plate.

Geovany Soto drew a walk, David Murphy had a one-out single and Andrus singled to load the bases. That forced Arizona to bring in closer Heath Bell, who gave up an RBI single to Jurickson Profar and a two-run single to Adrian Beltre.

But with the go-ahead run at the plate, Bell got Nelson Cruz to strike out and Mitch Moreland to bounce into a groundout.

“We kept pushing the whole game and we never gave up,” Beltre said. “Hopefully that last inning will carry over to the night game.”

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