ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas left-hander Martin Perez did his part in August to keep the Rangers in the playoff picture.
Now he hopes to do the same in September.
Perez (10-10, 4.89 ERA) takes the mound Sunday when the Rangers look to win the rubber match of their three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels, who snapped a three-game losing streak to Texas on Saturday.
Perez has won his last five starts, which is one shy of his career-best streak. He’s the only Texas starter to win five straight decisions over the last two years. Perez isn’t just getting by in his run either. He has a 2.91 ERA in the streak and lowered his ERA by more than half a run.
He comes into the Los Angeles start full of confidence, too.
“I can throw all my pitches for strikes,” said Perez, who has walked six in 34 innings during the winning streak. “Every game I just attack hitters and throw first-pitch strikes and don’t give too much credit to hitters. Like I said throw strikes and when you throw strikes you can do good things.”
One issue for Perez early in the year was his tempo. He was very deliberate on the mound between pitches. He’s gotten away from that during his hot streak and it wasn’t by accident.
“I found a way to have a good tempo,” said Perez, who is 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA in his career against the Angels, including seven shutout innings in an Aug. 24 victory. “Before I just tried to do too many different things with my delivery. I think right now I’ve been working with my pitching coach (Doug Brocail) and we find a way. I’m trying to move my hands and pitch like I did before when I was in Double A, High A. That worked for me and I want to stay there.”
The Angels counter with lefty Andrew Heaney (1-0, 5.63 ERA), who is making his fourth start for the season since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Heaney has faced the Rangers three times in his career, going 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA. One of his three starts this year came against Texas on Aug. 23, when he allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings.
Heaney is just one part of the Los Angeles rotation that’s getting healthy. Right-hander Garrett Richards, who has missed the entire season with a straight right biceps, threw a bullpen Saturday and will make his first start of the season Tuesday.
But the Angels first must finish off the Rangers. Los Angeles has scored 16 runs in the first two games of the series behind timely hitting. That should make the Heaney’s job easier Sunday, especially with the recent acquisitions of Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips.
“You’re always hoping to get back in the game,” said manager Mike Scioscia, whose team erased a two-run deficit late Saturday to win 7-4. “The one thing about our lineup is it’s lengthened. You know you’re going to be able to drive the ball a little better as a group.”