The Rangers lost on Friday night 9-7 against the Oakland A's in game two of this four-game series. It was a back-and-forth game that saw Brent Rooker finally end it with a three-run walk-off home run in the 10th. It was the second straight concerning start for Martin Perez.
He did finish five innings in this start after not being able to get through the fourth in his last start. The Rangers gave him two different leads at 3-2 and 4-3, but each time he gave up solo home runs to tie the game. Let's dive down into what the issue might be for Perez in these last two starts and how he gets back on track before his next start on Wednesday against the Braves.
What is causing Texas Rangers starter Martin Perez to struggle?
Martin Perez throws six pitches, but really leans on about four pitches most of the time. He throws a sinker, cutter, curveball, and changeup. When he is on he is touching all four corners of the strike zone and is very rarely in the middle of the plate. He is able to generate weak contact and groundballs. Hitters have a hard time barreling him up because he is rarely in the middle of the plate.
The last two starts his command has been lacking. Against the Angels on May 7th, he pitched 3 2/3 innings, gave up eight hits, seven earned runs, struck out two, walked three, and gave up a home run. In that start, he threw 71 pitches and the Angels only swung and missed on six pitches. In addition to that the Angels as a team had a .471 batting average against Perez in that game. That is how the Angels ended up scoring seven runs and forcing Perez out of the game early.
Now, lets break down the start against Oakland. The first pitch of the game resulted in a home run by Esteury Ruiz and it did not get much better from there. The A's swung hard and made lots of hard contact. Last night the A's made barrel contact five times. They had three home runs, a triple, a double, and three singles. Here is his mlb.com pitch chart from his start.
As you can see his sinker, cutter, and changeup all had instances of missing in the middle of the plate. The three home runs came on a sinker middle and down to Ruiz, sinker middle-in to Kevin Smith, and a cutter up and middle of the plate to Carlos Perez. If you combine that with a decreased velocity of 92 mph rather than the 94 he normally is at it, that leads to having eight balls in play that left the bat at 100mph or harder.
What does Martin Perez need to do?
I am sure it is not as easy as saying pitch better. He needs to command his pitches better. He had three walks against the Angels and two walks against the A's. That doesn't include the number of pitches missed over the middle of the plate. His stuff is not good enough to miss over the plate and get away with it. His last good start takes us back to the start on April 30th against the Yankees. Here is his pitch chart from that day from mlb.com.
Notice how his pitches are more congregated to the four corners. He did leave some over the middle of the plate, but not near as many. If he can do that he can get the weak contact or ground balls off the changeups that are normally off the plate.
Anything left up and over the middle has a good chance of being hit up and over the fence. Hopefully in his side sessions and film work over the next three to four days that Perez can resolve these issues. deGrom being out for likely the rest of this month means that everyone else has to pick up the slack. That includes Perez. He has to get back to being the quality start pitcher he was for most of 2022 and April of 2023.
I am not too concerned. Two starts in a 30-start season is just a blip. If it goes to 3-4 starts in a row then I will start to get concerned. It is nothing major that is causing these issues. He just is leaving too many pitches over the heart of the plate and the A's and Angels have taken advantage. He had a stretch similar to this last season in late June and early July. He gave three or more runs in three consecutive starts. That included two starts where he allowed a pair of home runs in each start. He responded to that stretch by not allowing more than one run in five of his next six starts.
Perez is a veteran. He has been through struggles before. I expect that his next time out against Atlanta that he will have it figured out and will pitch much better.