Texas Rangers

Colon provided blueprint for Rangers starters. Perez, though, can't execute it in loss to Rays

Martin Perez allowed three hits in the first inning Monday and four in the second en route to another ragged outing for the Rangers.
Martin Perez allowed three hits in the first inning Monday and four in the second en route to another ragged outing for the Rangers. The Associated Press

Bartolo Colon was the talk of baseball Sunday night into Monday morning, lighting up social media as he flirted with a perfect game and giving sports talking heads material for their morning shows.

Even the other 11 Texas Rangers pitchers were still talking about it.

The awe his fellow pitchers felt didn't stem from his age, at least not entirely, after they saw Colon retire the first 21 Houston Astros hitters and finish 7 2/3 innings with one run allowed on one hit and one walk.

Colon threw fastballs and threw strikes, quality strikes, and threw them whenever and wherever he wanted. The takeaway was, if Colon, nearly 45 and with diminished velocity, can do it, why can't they?

The reminder couldn't have come at a better time for Martin Perez and Matt Moore.

Having had the hardest time throwing strikes and having had admitted to trying to do too much in past starts, the left-handers watched Colon draw them a blueprint Sunday night.

Perez had the first crack at replicating it Monday to open a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Though he said he tried, he wasn't close to matching Colon.

Rangers pitcher Bartolo Colon barely broke a sweat mentally while taking a perfect game into the eighth inning Sunday night.

Perez allowed nine base runners and five runs in the first two innings, and Rangers hitters struck out 10 more times in an 8-4 loss that snapped their season-best two-game winning streak.

"I think I threw too many strikes, and the times I didn't need to throw strikes, they got me again," Perez said. "I'm trying to figure out how to get my rhythm back and keep pitching.

"I used all my pitches. I used my slider down and a way, my two-seamer down and away. I missed the zone a few times when it came back to the middle, but, hey, bad game, man."

It wasn't that Perez wasn't throwing strikes, but when he did, for the most part, the Rays hit them while laying off the pitches he wanted them to chase. They collected eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits and three walks before Perez was removed after four innings.

Four of the hits and two of the walks came in a four-run second that saw Perez throw 34 pitches and also saw shortstop Jurickson Profar exit after landing on the right side of his head after a collision near second base.

Perez has allowed 29 hits this season in 12 1/3 innings.

"Martin continued to try to battle," manager Jeff Banister said. "They did a good job putting the barrel on it. They seemed to have a pretty good plan."

The biggest factor Rangers pitchers see with Colon — above the pinpoint command — is trust. If he puts the ball where he wants to put it, he trusts that opposing hitters won't do much with it.

Even at 89 mph. Or 86.

Especially after he gets a first-pitch strike, which he threw to the first 17 Astros hitters.

Colon made it look so easy, almost like he was just working between starts.

"I'm pretty sure I've heard each pitcher since last night comment on that, how he was surgical but it looked like he was throwing [off] flat ground," said Moore, who will pitch Tuesday for the first time against the team that drafted hm.

"For a lot of us, it was trying to take a note of his calmness. It was like, 'Hey, I'm going to put the ball where I want. If you hit it, you hit it. I'll make another pitch right after that.'"

Moore has lost all three of his starts this season but believes he struck on something last week in allowing three runs in five innings against the Los Angeles Angels. Though he wasn't particularly efficient, he tried to simplify things once he got two strikes on a batter.

He threw 31 pitches of his 96 pitches in the fourth inning, but managed to hold the Angels to only one run. A little more Colon in his approach could make the difference in his return to Tropicana Field.

"For a lot of us that might be going through something or might be not happy with the latest outing, we can see something like that and make you realize if trust your stuff and you execute, the odds are on our side," Moore said.

Colon will start again Saturday for Doug Fister, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right hip. Banister said that the Rangers aren't looking beyond Colon's next start, but he has been their best starter this season and has earned an extended stay.

In theory, Perez or Moore could see Colon take some of their starts if they continue to be ineffective.

"Right now he's in the rotation," Banister said. "Fister is working to get back. There's still some work to do there. A baseball team is pretty fluid. You never know, the next day or the next week, what's going to unfold in front of you. You just have to be prepared for all the situations."

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