Martin Perez frustrated with strike zone in loss to Blue Jays
Martin Perez did not have it on Sunday. And so far, in 2018, he has rarely had it.
The Texas Rangers left-hander was rocked for four runs on five hits, including three solo homers, and was out of the game after four innings in Sunday's 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Perez, who admittedly rushed back sooner than expected from an off-season right broken elbow, was coming off his best start of the season. But that was a week ago when he held the Mariners to two hits on seven hits over six innings.
He's now allowed 24 earned runs on 41 hits (including seven homers) and 12 walks in 22 1/3 innings.
Texas was going for its first sweep and trying to stretch its season-long win streak to four games.
But the Blue Jays countered Renato Nunez's solo homer in the second inning with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Yangervis Solarte led off with a solo homer and Kevin Pillar walked and scored on sacrifice fly.
Toronto added solo homers from from Teoscar Hernandez and Kevin Pillar in the third and fourth innings to build a 4-1 lead.
The Blue Jays added three more runs (two earned) against reliever Tony Barnette. The two earned runs came in his third inning of work after a leadoff walk and double started the the seventh. It's the first time Barnette has pitched that much in a game since July 29.
The Rangers begin a three-game series in Cleveland on Monday.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos said home plate umpire Tim Timmons' strike zone had Perez confused. To that end, some Rangers hitters were questioning some calls, too, including Chirinos and Joey Gallo. Nothing ever escalated into a shouting match but at one point Chirinos had a few words with Timmons after striking out in the fifth.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister was waiting just outside the dugout to come to his catcher's defense, but Chirinos walked back before it turned into anything significant.
"He was having a hard time throwing strikes consistently but the umpire behind the plate was terrible today," said Chirinos, who thinks it altered Perez's approach. "I think so. [Perez] was mad on the mound trying to figure out [Timmons'] zone and what to do … throwing up, throwing in. It was a tough day for Martin."
Even more vexing, Chirinos said, was that Timmons seemed to widen his zone in the later innings.
"You ask from the umpire to be consistent," he said. "If I’m catching and I’m getting the same pitch, then fine. But it seemed it was tight for us and open to them. It was one of those days."
Neither Chirinos nor Perez were blaming the outing squarely on Timmons, but for a pitcher such as Perez, who is still struggling to regain his natural delivery from a late start this spring, any perceived impediment can knock him out of rhythm.
"You throw a good pitch and he doesn’t call it," Perez said. "Sometimes that happens but you have to do it for both teams. You throw good pitches and they look like strikes, and you don’t give it to me … best you can do is keep going. Continue to play hard."
Perez threw fewer fastballs against the Jays, who are a good fastball-hitting team. And when he did throw his fastballs he tried to enhance the movement with a tick slower velocity, not unlike Bartolo Colon has done with great success this season.
"Remember, this guy went through a pretty tough winter also," Banister said, referring to Perez's injury. "It was a challenge for him to keep the delivery together today. I think that’s what led to not having as good of command he had his last outing."