Rangers starter dominates Giants for first win since Tommy John surgery
By Cody Stavenhagen
ARLINGTON -- Martin Perez, only a little more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, had pitched a dominant 8 1/3 innings before he left a changeup high and allowed a ninth-inning double to Angel Pagan.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister came to the mound to pull Perez in what became a 2-1 Rangers win Sunday against the Giants.
The crowd let loose a resounding boo. They wanted more Martin -- and why not?
Perez pitched a sterling game, allowing only two hits and throwing a remarkably economic 80 pitches. Perez said there hadn't been much of a conversation. He would never tell a manager he was tired. But if the manager wants him to come out, he will abide.
But with the bases loaded, Dyson induced a 6-4-3 double play to save the day and preserve Perez's first win since April 23, 2014.
"This is a guy who's coming off Tommy John," Banister said. "We pushed the envelope with some high-stress innings with this kid. Really felt like he had gotten us to a point where we needed to get to. ... We had men out in that bullpen, and it's their job to come in and get outs."
For Perez, it was a meaningful outing because it proved he can still be an effective pitcher post-surgery. This was only his fourth start since the procedure, and it came after he allowed eight earned runs and left in the second inning of his last outing against the Yankees.
"It was a long time ago that I got this feeling," Perez said.
With precise command of his sinker and changeup, Perez secured 14 ground-ball outs. He retired his first 14 batters and threw 76 percent strikes. He became the first pitcher to record at least 25 outs on 80 pitches or fewer since Kansas City's Luke Hochevar in 2009.
"That was fun to do today," Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez said. "It made my life easy. Every time I called a pitch, it was just right there."
The most important part of Perez's day might go beyond tangible performance. Gimenez, who caught two of Perez's rehab starts in Triple-A Round Rock, said Perez was far calmer than in previous starts. Perez has a tendency to get overexcited, and the two had talked about maintaining composure while in the bullpen. Perez followed through in the game.
Even more encouraging might be what it means for the future. Sunday was a glimpse of the Martin Perez who threw back-to-back shutouts in 2014.
"He should draw from this outing going forward," Banister said. "This is actually who he is, what he has and how he needs to pitch."
Cody Stavenhagen is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.