For their investment of Martin Perez to pay off, the Red Sox don’t need the veteran left-hander to be an ace. Instead, they need him to do just what he did Thursday night: keep them in games long enough for their offense to win them.
Perez, who imploded in his Sox debut against the Orioles on Sunday, bounced back in a big way against the Mets on Thursday. In 5 ⅔ innings, the southpaw allowed just two runs on two hits, striking out five and walking four in a 4-2 Red Sox win⅔.
Save for some trouble in the third inning, Perez mowed down the Mets’ lineup with ease. He faced four or fewer batters in four of the five innings he completed.
“Great job from Martin to get us that far,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “Really commanded his pitches from the first inning on. That’s huge for us, to have him do that.”
After relying largely on his cutter in the loss to Baltimore, Perez turned to his changeup against New York. He threw 31 of them (35.2% of his pitches) in the win, inducing nine swings-and-misses.
“I had a good feeling today,” Perez said. “As soon as I started throwing it and seeing those guys weren’t making adjustments, I just said this is the pitch I have to stay on. I just trusted it.”
From the start, Perez was locked in with catcher Christian Vazquez, who led Boston’s offense for the second straight night with two home runs and three RBIs. Vazquez was pleased with Perez’s pitch mix and saw some vast improvements from Saturday.
“I think we pitched up more than the last game he pitched at home,” Vazquez said. “I think that’s a big key for him, to change eye levels with the fastball up, curveballs down and changeups down. I think he was throwing everything where he wanted. Last game, he missed with a couple pitches over the middle of the plate. He pitched well.”
In December, the Red Sox signed Perez to replace Rick Porcello at the back of their rotation, slotting him in as the No. 5 behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi. With Sale out for the season, Price traded and Rodriguez shut down to COVID-19 complications, Perez entered the season as Boston’s No. 2 starter and is being relied upon much more than expected.
His second start with his new club went much better than his first. His changeup was a big reason for that.
“When you trust your stuff and you’ve got a good feeling when you go out there and pitch, use that pitch until they make adjustments,” he said. “If they don’t do it, you don’t have to change.”