Last year at this time, Texas Rangers pitcher Martin Perez was part of the problem — part of the reason the Rangers blew a big lead down the stretch and were caught by the Oakland A's on the final day of the regular season before bowing out unceremoniously in the AL Wild Card game.
As one of two guys the Rangers used in the No. 5 slot in the pitching rotation, Perez struggled horribly as Rangers' No. 5 starters won just one of their starts down the stretch to help fuel their collapse.
This year, Perez is part of the solution. On a staff wrecked by injuries, Perez has emerged as a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year candidate, winning his last five starts and going 5-0 in August with a 3.06 ERA to become the first Rangers rookie starter to win five games in one month.
“This year, I’m throwing more strikes. And we’ve got guys giving me offensive support,” said Perez, after he held Seattle at bay on Wednesday, carrying a no-hitter into the fourth inning.
At just 22 years old, Perez is showing poise beyond his years and is a complete opposite of what he was last year — a scared, deer-in-the-headlights 21-year-old. He's even worked on breathing exercises to help him relax on the mound.
What he's doing is working, as he's now 8-3 with a 3.58 ERA and leads all AL rookie starters in wins.