ARLINGTON, Texas -- This time last season, Martin Perez was going through something brand new -- pitching in a big league pennant race.
The 21-year-old allowed four runs in four innings in a 4-3 loss to Oakland in Game 160 of the season. The Rangers lost two more games and the division to the A's.
A year later, Perez is in a different place.
Perez is confident. He believes in himself. And he says he's ready to help the Rangers move into the postseason by winning Monday's elimination game.
"When you're on this level, you have to be ready for whatever decision they make, and I'm ready," Perez said. "That's why I'm here. They trust me, and I just have to do my job."
Perez is trusted because he carried the Rangers' rotation as a 22-year-old in August and September. While Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza weren't winning consistently, Perez put together a six-game winning streak.
Perez had a 2.76 ERA and a .236 opponents batting average during that stretch. He walked only 11 in 42 1/3 innings.
This is a different Perez from last year in Oakland.
"He's one of the reasons why we are getting this opportunity, and it's his turn," manager Ron Washington said. "He's well-rested. We have plenty of guys to back him up. If it gets out of control, we can stop it quickly. We have a lot of confidence in him."
Perez beat his hero Hernandez, another former Cy Young winner, twice in the span of 11 days.
"I don't face David Price, because he doesn't hit," Perez said. "I'm just going to face the hitters and just want to my best. I know it's an important game for us. I just want to go to the mound and have the same focus and throw strikes, do what I have to do to win the game, because tomorrow's game is the most important game we have."