Martin Perez had his best day in a Red Sox uniform last Thursday as he dominated the Astros to lead a big win in Houston.
His bid for an encore came up woefully short.
Five days after silencing the Astros over 7 2/3 shutout innings, Perez found himself facing them again at Fenway Park. This time, it went poorly very quickly. The left-hander lasted just two innings and gave up six runs — including a five-spot in the second — as the Red Sox dropped the first of their three-game set with a 7-1 loss to the Astros on Tuesday night, snapping their five-game winning streak.
Perez has been one of the Red Sox’ best stories this season. Their No. 5 starter entered with the rotation’s best ERA. But a rematch with one of baseball’s best offenses, especially so soon after seeing them, proved to be too tall of an order.
“He pitched great against them last week, they made some adjustments, you could tell,” manager Alex Cora said. “It wasn’t a good one, but that’s going to happen throughout the season.”
In their first game in Boston since their sign-stealing scandal came to light, the Astros heard it quite clearly from the 23,604 at Fenway. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa earned the brunt of the boos and chants, but it didn’t seem to bother them.
Correa seemed to almost embrace it. The shortstop went 3-for-5, including a very Fenway Park home run that opened the scoring in the first, a 310-footer to left that hung in the Boston sky for several moments before finally scraping the foul pole. Confusion ensued on the field before a replay review confirmed the homer.
It was only the beginning of a short night for Perez.
The second was a complete disaster for the lefty, who allowed the first four batters to reach on two doubles, a single and a walk before he struck out Altuve. Correa, hearing chants of, “You’re a cheater!” from the Fenway crowd, proceeded to swing on Perez’s first-pitch cutter and laced it to left for an RBI stand-up double to extend their lead to 4-0.
It wasn’t over for Perez, who intentionally walked Bregman to load the bases with one out before barely hitting Yordan Alvarez with a pitch to score another run. Yuli Gurriel followed with an RBI single before Perez finally put an end to his nightmare by retiring the next two batters.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight,” Perez said. “I think my two-seamer, throwing inside too much. When I tried to throw good pitches they hit it, that’s one of the nights you’ve got to go out there and compete no matter what and I can’t throw the ball deep in the game, but just trying to do my best and like I said I don’t have my best stuff tonight.”
After quickly slicing through the Astros last Thursday, needing just 57 pitches to get through six innings, Perez needed 59 to finish two innings Tuesday. He clearly didn’t have it and Cora pulled the plug on his starter, sending Matt Andriese to take the third inning. Perez saw his ERA increase to 3.88 in what was one of the worst two starts submitted by a Red Sox starter this season. Garrett Richards was the only other starter to last two innings or fewer when he went two in his first start with the Red Sox on April 3 against the Orioles.
“I was a little mad because my job in that situation is just go deep in the game no matter what but I can’t, man,” Perez said. “Too many pitches, too many foul balls, too many base hits and 60 pitches in two innings, that was bad. But like I said to you guys, that’s part of baseball. We’re not going to go out there every time and throw a quality start, that happened, and happened to me tonight and I’m OK with that.
“Just come back tomorrow with my mind fresh, watch a couple videos and go to the bullpen and fix it.”
The Red Sox’ bats couldn’t keep up anyway as they experienced a flashback at the plate against Framber Valdez. Valdez, who struck out 10 and allowed one run over seven innings against the Red Sox last Wednesday, dominated them again over 7 1/3 innings, giving up one run and striking out eight.
The Red Sox’ best chance to do damage and make it a game came in the fifth, when trailing 7-1, Christian Vazquez — who replaced an injured Kevin Plawecki — and Kiké Hernandez opened the inning with singles to put runners on first and third with no outs. But they came up empty as Bobby Dalbec and Christian Arroyo struck out and Rafael Devers grounded out to end any chance of a rally.
“There were certain situations, we didn’t put the ball in play,” Cora said. “He got it both ways to righties, sinking away and burying that breaking ball to you. He doesn’t walk that many guys, but I believe it’s not actually that he throws a lot of strikes. It’s guys chasing pitches. Like I told you last week, we chased 38% of the pitches against him last week. If you do that, it’s going to be tough to beat him. …
“We like to swing the bats and sometimes we expand up, we expand away. We need to be more disciplined against him. Hopefully we can face him again.”