Rangers’ Perez makes 2018 debut against A’s

OAKLAND, Calif. — Texas Ranger left-hander Martin Perez is scheduled to make his season debut Thursday afternoon when the Texas Rangers conclude a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s have won two of the first three, including 6-2 behind the strong pitching of Sean Manaea on Wednesday night.

The winning team has gotten a difference-making performance by its starting pitcher in each of the first three games of the series. Oakland’s Andrew Triggs and the Rangers’ Cole Hamels were the star starters Monday and Tuesday.

The Rangers are hoping Perez can continue that trend despite not having pitched in a regular-season game since last September. He beat Oakland that day to complete a 13-12 season in which he went 8-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his final 11 starts.

Perez pitched only twice (10 innings, five runs) in spring training after having surgery on his right (non-pitching) elbow in December. He broke a bone in the elbow when falling off a fence.

He sees no reason why he can’t pick up where he left off last season.

“I want to stay right there,” he said. “The last two months (of 2017) were good. I need to stay right there. I don’t have to be perfect, but stay in the same lane, control my mind, control my emotions, pound the strike zone.”

The 27-year-old (his birthday was Wednesday) is 7-7 with a 5.24 ERA in 16 career starts against the A’s.

Oakland will counter with right-hander Daniel Mengden (0-1, 7.94 ERA), who got roughed up in his first start of the season, allowing six runs (five earned) and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings in an 8-3 home loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday. He walked one and struck out five.

The 25-year-old from Houston has pitched well against the Rangers in his career, including throwing seven shutout innings in a 5-2 road win last October.

He is 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA in three career starts against Texas.

A’s manager Bob Melvin saw his offensively potent club put together just its second big inning of the season in Wednesday’s win. This one was more a case of taking advantage of what the Rangers gave them, rather than busting out with the bats.

The four-run fourth, which extended a 1-0 lead to 5-0, featured singles by Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie that served as bookends for a hit batter, a walk, an error and a sacrifice fly.

The A’s will take them any way they can get them, Melvin said afterward.

“We needed that all the way around,” he said, “a game where we had a little breathing room.”

The A’s, who finished 29th in attendance last season, have dropped to the bottom of the heap this year. They attracted just 7,908 on Wednesday, following 9,157 on Tuesday and 7,416 on Monday.

Oakland also drew the smallest crowd this season in the majors in a home opener when 27,764 saw last Thursday’s 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

The series finale against the Rangers concludes an eight-game homestand.