Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.
Moment No. 11: Martin Perez gets win over Astros in final week, earns 10th victory.
Rookie left-hander Martin Perez had already established himself as a sure-fire starting rotation member for the 2014 season before his start Sept. 25 against Houston. He reminded everyone why he's an important part of the Rangers' future in his final regular-season start.
Perez had eight strikeouts in a 7-3 victory over the Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, giving Texas its third win in a streak of seven straight victories to force an American League wild-card tiebreaker game against Tampa Bay. It gave Perez 10 wins in his first first full season in the major leagues.
The Rangers had the confidence to start the 22-year-old in that tiebreaker game against the Rays. Texas lost to Tampa Bay, 5-2, and Perez suffered his sixth loss of the season, giving up a home run to one of the game's best clutch hitters, Evan Longoria.
Perez's second-half success was critical as the Rangers led the AL West heading into September. Perez had a six-game winning streak during a stretch from Aug. 5 to Sept. 3 as the rest of the rotation struggled. Only fifth starter Travis Blackley notched a win during that stretch.
Perez had been at his absolute best in an August start at Minute Maid Park, earning his first complete game of his career with a 4-0 win over the Astros. He allowed four hits as the Rangers coasted to a 6-1 victory.
Perez was able to hold things together against Houston in that final week start. He used his changeup to baffle Houston hitters. The Astros were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
But he also fell behind 3-1 in the fourth inning when he allowed three runs, including a two-run homer. He was was visibly upset on the mound.
But the offense scored five runs and regained a 6-3 lead, allowing Perez to refocus. He retired nine of the last 12 batters he faced and made it through seven innings, allowing manager Ron Washington to hold back key pieces of his bullpen.
"I told myself, 'Don't worry about the runs,'" Perez said after the game. "I had to focus and do what I have to do to get seven innings. I felt emotion, and when I do that I have to realize I'm the best pitcher on the mound."