ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Martin Perez pitched six-hit ball into the seventh inning and the AL West-leading Texas Rangers beat the scuffling Cincinnati Reds 4-0 on Friday night.
The Reds have lost three in a row, and six of seven. They also have more concerns about right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2), their opening day starter already on the disabled list twice this season who left after a batter into the second inning because of rightness in his right lat muscle.
Perez (2-1) struck out three in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander was coming off a win last Saturday at St. Louis, where he allowed runs in each of the first two innings before holding the Cardinals scoreless over his last five innings.
Jason Frasor and Robbie Ross finished off the Rangers’ second shutout in a row and seventh this season. Cincinnati was held scoreless for the sixth time.
The Rangers won 2-0 at the New York Yankees on Thursday to cap a 5-1 trip that included a three-game sweep of the Cardinals. Texas has won nine of 11 games since a six-game losing streak.
Texas went ahead to stay after scoring a first-inning run for the first time in 20 games, since June 7 at Toronto. Elvis Andrus reached on a one-out infield single, stole second base and scored on Adrian Beltre’s single.
Cueto (4-2), who clearly grimaced on at least one pitch to Beltre, was in obvious pain after throwing a 1-2 fastball that Mitch Moreland fouled off leading off the second. It was his last pitch.
It was only Cueto’s third start since missing the first half of June while on the DL with a strained right shoulder. He also missed more than a month earlier this season because of a strained right lat.
Moreland took a called third strike on the first pitch thrown by Tony Cingrani, who then needed 37 more pitches to finish the second. He had four walks in the inning, all on full-count pitches.
Jurickson Profar drew a walk before David Murphy singled. Cingrani later walked three consecutive batters — Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz, the latter two forcing in runs.
Beltre had a leadoff single in the fifth and scored on a single by Profar, the 20-year-old rookie who had a couple of spectacular defensive plays at shortstop in a game when Andrus was the designated hitter.
Profar went way to his right to backhand Devin Mesoraco’s grounder starting the third, planted his foot in short left field and made a strong throw to get the out at first. An inning later, Profar went up the middle to make another nifty grab and take a hit away from Brandon Phillips.
Joey Votto and Phillips had consecutive singles to start the seventh before Perez had his only walk, with two outs to Chris Heisey load the bases. Reliever Jason Frasor needed only one pitch to coax an inning-ending grounder by Mesoraco.
NOTES: Phillips had missed both games in Oakland while on paternity leave. He returned to play on his 32nd birthday. … Cingrani allowed three runs over four innings with six walks and three strikeouts. … RHP Chris Leake, the Reds scheduled starter Saturday, is 5-1 his last eight starts. Rookie RHP Nick Tepesch (3-6) pitches for Texas. … Rangers DH Lance Berkman was out of the starting lineup after waking up Friday with a sore knee. He slipped and banged his knee getting off the team plane. … Reliever Joakim Soria, who has yet to make his Rangers debut while recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw a scoreless inning for Triple-A Round Rock on Friday night. The right-hander struck out two and threw 13 of 17 pitches for strikes.