The winners for American League Pitcher and Rookie of the Month for August should be revealed today, and Martin Perez has a chance at claiming both awards.
He won all five of his starts last month for the Texas Rangers, including a complete game, and his ERA was just a tick above 3.
No rookie topped that performance, and no veteran matched his 5-0 record. But, considering the circumstances, he topped all five of those starts Tuesday night.
The left-hander allowed only one run in seven innings, and Jurickson Profar had an RBI double in a three-run fifth inning as the Rangers beat Oakland 5-1 to reclaim first place in the American League West.
“He better get some Rookie of the Year votes,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “What can you say? He had all the pitches going. He had a great changeup, which has always been his pitch. He was really locating his fastball, and he threw two different breaking balls for strikes.”
The Rangers’ division lead is one game with 24 to play, including four head-to-head with the second-place A’s. Yu Darvish and Jarrod Parker will square off Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series at O.co Coliseum.
Mitch Moreland and Alex Rios collected solo homers as the Rangers snapped a streak of four straight games with only two runs. The Moreland blast, with two outs in the fourth, got the Rangers going against 14-game winner Bartolo Colon.
But the play that might have gotten the Rangers going was the one that ended the third.
Josh Donaldson was at second when Profar dived to his left to keep a Yoenis Cespedes grounder from sneaking into left field. Donaldson got to third and kept going, and Profar threw home just in time for Pierzynski to brace himself and tag out a lunging Donaldson.
“It looked like it gave us some energy,” Pierzynski said.
Moreland connected for his 22nd homer of the season in the next half inning. In the field, Colon booted a one-out Craig Gentry grounder in the fifth, and Profar followed with a shot off the base of the right-field wall that caromed away from Michael Choice and allowed Gentry to score from first.
After Ian Kinsler reached in an infield hit off Colon’s right hand, Profar scored on a grounder to third by Adrian Beltre.
The Kinsler single was the Rangers’ first hit with a runner in scoring position since Leonys Martin’s walk-off single Saturday night. Pierzynski quickly followed with another, capping the rally with a broken-bat blooper to right field.
“We did it in many ways,” manager Ron Washington said. “Pitching. Defense. It didn’t take a bunch of dramatic hits. We just put the ball in play, and good things happened.”
That was enough for Perez (9-3), who won his sixth straight start and beat an All-Star for a fourth straight time. He worked quickly and efficiently despite allowing eight hits, but he didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season.
Perez made a quick adjustment after Coco Crisp started the game with a leadoff single and the A’s followed with three straight balls to center and right field as they sat on his fastball away.
He and Pierzynski recognized the A’s approach and started going with inside fastballs, which made his changeup more effective late in the game. After Chris Young started the seventh with a single, Perez threw a 3-2 changeup to get Kurt Suzuki on a pop-up and struck out Choice with a changeup in the dirt for the second out of a sixth straight scoreless inning.
“The kid’s got [guts],” Pierzynski said.
Said Perez: “I threw it late. They know I have a good changeup, so I can’t throw my best pitch in the first few innings.”
Perez isn’t making a big deal out of his performance since being recalled June 22. He has more experience than he did a year ago, when he was asked to start game No. 160 with the A’s charging toward the West crown.
Though still a rookie, he hasn’t looked like one the past six starts. And he didn’t Tuesday in the thick of a pennant race against the team the Rangers have to be to win the West.
“It was big,” Washington said. “He’s just continuing to do what he’s been doing. Every time he goes out there is another experience. I just think we have to continue to let him to grow, and whatever expectations come upon him, let him put them on himself.”