ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: Martin Perez #33 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Oakland Athletics at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 26, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Martin Perez had every right to be out of control on Monday night. It would've been perfectly understandable had Perez been knocked from Monday's AL Wild Card tiebreaker game in the first couple of innings and the Rangers spiral to a blowout loss at the hands of the Rays.
A few pitches into the first inning, it appeared the 22-year-old rookie, staked with the biggest stage of his young career in a win-or-go-home game, was well on his way to such a fate.
Then, Perez did what he's done all year — fight back from a tough spot and minimize damage as he settled into a pretty solid start against Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price in the Rangers' 5-2 loss to end their season.
Perez was removed from the game in the sixth inning, controversially, after he'd settled down and retired eight straight in favor of Alexi Ogando, who quickly allowed another run two days removed from a start against the Angels.
The big blow to Perez, who gained invaluable experience moving forward on the big stage, was a third-inning home run by Evan Longoria that just seemed to carry and carry and carry some more into the Rangers' bullpen over the outstretched glove of Leonys Martin.
"It wasn't a bad pitch," Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski told ESPNDallas.com. "[Longoria] just got his barrel on it. Martin made some good pitches in the first inning. The kid should be proud. I thought he pitched really well given the situation and given what he was facing for him being young.
"He's got a bright, bright future, and [I] hope that nobody looks at this game and gets down on him because that kid has a really good future. He's special, and he's only going to get better."
Perez has exhibited exceptional poise this year for such a young pitcher and has been a superstar in postgame interviews, never getting too high or too low and bringing the "all-business" approach, almost reminiscent of Cliff Lee's short time in Texas.
He was disappointed after falling to 10-6 but said he's ready to build on his breakout 2013 season next year.
"They did give me an opportunity to pitch at this level, and I think I did a great job this year," Perez said. "I want to work hard to be a good pitcher in the future."