Rookie P Martin Perez rewrites record book

OAKLAND, Calif. -- When Texas Rangers rookie left-hander Martin Perez took the mound Tuesday night against the Oakland Athletics, he gave up a ringing double to leadoff hitter Coco Crisp.

Crisp later raced home on a sacrifice fly, giving the A's a quick 1-0 lead.

But that was the last run they scored against Perez, who blanked Oakland for the next six innings to win his sixth straight start, a rookie franchise record.

"After the leadoff double, he was lights out," A.J. Pierzynski said after the Rangers' 5-1 win at O.co Coliseum. "He had all the pitches going. He had a great changeup tonight, which has always been his pitch. But he really located his fastball well. And he also was able to throw two different types of breaking balls for strikes, which I think really kept them off balance.”

"It seemed like they had a good game plan early, really trying to go the other way,” the catcher said. “But he threw some heaters in on guys to kind of back them off a little bit, and that made his changeup and curveball a little more effective."

Perez pitched the Rangers back into sole possession of first place in the American League West, one day after Texas lost 4-2 to Oakland and fell into a tie with the Athletics for first. With 24 games left, the Rangers (80-58) own a one-game lead over the A's (79-59), and Perez deserves plenty of credit.

"He’s growing in front of our eyes," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "Just watch it and enjoy it."

Last year, as a 21-year-old, Perez appeared in 12 games with six starts for the Rangers, gaining valuable experience. He beat the A's the first time he faced them but lost to them twice down the stretch, when Oakland roared back to overtake the Rangers and win the West on the final day of the regular season.

"When you come the first time, you don't have too much of an idea how the game is here," Perez said. "It's the same ball, but a lot of guys have more experience than you. I just tried to learn last year and this year, too. Every day you learn something new."

Oakland manager Bob Melvin said he noticed a big difference in Perez.

"He's pitching with a lot more confidence," Melvin said. "He's got quite a run going as far as how their team is playing behind him. He's been one of their better starters at this point. A pretty heralded guy as a prospect goes. This year he's settled into a starter's role and doing pretty good."

Perez allowed just the one run on eight hits over seven innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. He struck out five, walked none and threw only 95 pitches -- 60 for strikes.

Melvin stacked his lineup with eight right-handed batters or switch-hitters against Perez, and they tried to take him to the opposite field. His answer was to bust them inside with fastballs.

"I just tried to attack the zone and throw strikes," Perez said. "After the second inning, I started throwing in because I saw a couple guys looking for a fastball away or for my changeup. So I said, ‘OK, let me throw in,’ because I'm not going to give too much credit to the hitters.

"If they're going to swing at something outside, I just want to pound inside. That's what I did tonight."

For Washington, it was a beautiful sight to see.

"He just is continuing to do what he’s been doing to get to this point," Washington said. "He has tremendous pitching mechanics. He has pitches to work with. Each time he goes out there, it’s another experience for him.

“He just continues to grow. And whatever expectation that comes up on him, let him put it on himself -- and not us put it on him."

Energizing play: Pierzynski and shortstop Juickson Profar combined to make a huge defensive play in the bottom of the third inning that appeared to spark the Rangers.

With two outs and A's third baseman Josh Donaldson on second after a double, Yoenis Cespedes hit a ground ball deep into the hole at short. Profar made a diving stop, but Donaldson ran through third base coach Mike Gallego's stop sign and headed home. Profar zipped a throw to Pierzynski, who survived a collision with Donaldson to record the third out, then tagged him hard again just to make sure.

"It was a great play by Profar, just to get to that ball and knock it down," Pierzynski said. "I wish he would have got me the ball a little sooner. I think he was surprised [Donaldson] was going.”

“I mean, Mitch [Moreland] came out and hit a homer the next inning to tie the game,” he said, “and then, obviously, the next inning we scored the three runs to finally get a lead here."