Martin Perez wants to keep the spot in the Texas Rangers rotation that appeared to be his before getting hurt in spring training.
That won't be a problem if the young left-hander keeps pitching like this, throwing six-hit ball into the seventh inning in a 4-0 victory over the scuffling Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
"Throwing strikes, pounding the strike zone, not getting caught in any patterns, great mound presence. All of the above," manager Ron Washington said. "He's doing everything he's supposed to do to be successful."
While Perez (2-1) went 6 2-3 scoreless innings and seems healthy, Reds starter Johnny Cueto (4-2) was gone a batter into the second inning because of tightness in his right lat muscle.
Cueto, their opening day starter who has already been on the disabled list twice this season because of similar issues, will be sent back to Cincinnati to see a doctor.
"It's the same thing," manager Dusty Baker said. "It happened in the first inning again. It's very discouraging for him and for us."
The 22-year-old Perez was the leading candidate for the No. 5 spot in the Rangers rotation before getting hit by a batted ball and breaking a bone in his forearm during a spring training game. He was called up from Triple-A Round Rock as the 26th man to start the first game of a split doubleheader at Arizona on May 27, then came back -- maybe this time for the rest of the season -- last Saturday, when he allowed only two runs in seven innings in a win at St. Louis.
"I just want to continue to do the same job. I don't want to change my routine," Perez said. "Throw my changeup, my sinker and my fastball away."
Perez allowed runs in each of the first two innings at St. Louis last weekend before holding the Cardinals scoreless over his last five innings.
Cincinnati has lost three games in a row, and six of seven. The Reds have been shut out in consecutive games, and six times this season.
Jason Frasor and Robbie Ross finished off the Rangers' second shutout in a row and seventh this season.
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 clearly grimaced on at least one pitch to Beltre, then did so again after throwing a 1-2 fastball that Mitch Moreland fouled off leading off the second. It was his last pitch.
Asked if there was any consideration to not send Cueto out for the second, Baker responded, "The doctor said sometimes things will loosen up, and he said he was OK."
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.
"Great defense," Perez said. "It's amazing."
NOTES: Perez's only walk came with two outs in the seventh to load the bases. Frasor needed only one pitch to coax an inning-ending grounder by Mesoraco. ... Perez turned a comebacker into a double play after the Reds had consecutive singles to start the second. ... 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. ... Reliever Joakim Soria, who has yet to make his Rangers debut because he is 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.