Martin Perez rebounded from a couple of lousy outings and pitched well on Thursday night in Texas.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox left-hander, he didn’t get much help.
A night after their finest win of the season as Nick Pivetta outdueled Jacob deGrom, the Red Sox suffered from some sloppy defending and continued to struggle at the plate as they lost 4-1 to the Rangers in the first of a four-game series at Globe Life Park.
Here’s how it happened as the Red Sox fell to 16-10, snapping a three-game winning streak:
Uncharacteristic errors: The Red Sox had just tied the game with another clutch knock from Rafael Devers when they gave it right back in the sixth.
After Perez opened the bottom half with a strikeout of Joey Gallo, Adolis Garcia reached on a grounder that was booted by Xander Bogaerts, already the usually reliable shortstop’s fifth error of the season.
The Rangers took full advantage. Perez got Nate Lowe to line out, but was taken out after 5 2/3 strong innings for Hirokazu Sawamura, who has been solid this season. But the first batter the Japanese pitcher faced, Jose Trevino, made the Red Sox pay.
Just moments before the Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones in the NFL Draft, Trevino put a charge into Sawamura’s 0-1 slider and crushed it to left-center for a two-run homer that gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, which was all they ultimately needed.
“We have a righty in that situation, we pushed Martin to go out there, we didn’t make a play and we felt like that was a good matchup for us and we got burned,” Cora said of Sawamura, who gave up another home in the seventh.
It wasn’t the first error that cost the Red Sox in the loss. In a scoreless game in the fourth, Gallo hit a one-out double down the left field line. But Alex Verdugo was slow in getting the ball back to the infield, and he seemed to miss the cutoff man as the ball got past Rafael Devers, and then rolled away past Bogaerts and Perez to allow Gallo to advance to third. The error was charged to Devers, and the Rangers scored the game’s first run with Garcia’s deep sacrifice fly to center.
“It’s one of those freak plays, it’s nobody’s fault,” Cora said. “It’s just a bad hop, he tried to make a play, and it just kept rolling.”
Devers comes through, but offense produces another dud: The third baseman was one of the lone offensive sparks of the night. He made up for his error in the sixth, when Verdugo led off with a double. Three batters later, Devers came out with two outs and worked the count full against Rangers starter Kyle Gibson before golfing an impressive game-tying double to right.
But that was all the Red Sox’ offense could produce. They failed to put a runner in scoring position for the rest of the game, and it certainly didn’t help that J.D. Martinez was pinch-hit for with Christian Arroyo in the eighth inning. Martinez left the game due to migraine-like symptoms, and Cora said he’ll be out of the lineup on Friday.
The Red Sox have now only scored 11 runs in their last five games, and have averaged just three runs per game since their 11-run outburst against the White Sox on Patriots’ Day.
On Thursday, Cora gave credit to Gibson, who mixed his pitches well between his two-seamer, changeup and breaking balls. But he acknowledged the rut the offense is in.
“It’s been a grind the last week to be honest with you,” Cora said. “We haven’t been able to do too much but as you guys know, this is a good offense. Just a matter of get back and start doing the things we do best. Compete out there, hit the ball the other way, and when we do that we become a good, good offense.”
Perez was sharp: The lefty was the biggest positive of the night for the Red Sox, as he struck out seven and gave up five hits over 5 2/3 innings, snakebitten by the two errors behind him. Perez said he felt like he had his changeup working.
“I think I needed one of these games to get everything back and I think I put everything together and my changeup was there and made the difference between the pitches,” Perez said. “Good outing, I was competing and doing my best to win the game.”
Cora was encouraged by Perez’s performance after he had failed to complete four innings in his previous two starts.
“That was really good, that was something we were looking forward to,” Cora said. “He did an amazing job staying in the zone, had a good changeup. Probably his best changeup of the month and we’ve been saying that. Actually velocity was down, 91, 92, but he was under control, we just didn’t make two plays behind him and cost us the game. But if he throws the ball the way he did today, he’s going to be in good shape.”