(author's note: you probably know the drill by now, but just in case: I'm a writer over at Mavs Moneyball who's fortunate enough to live within walking distance of the Rock Round Express stadium. An aspiring sports writer about to start as a journalism major at the University of North Texas, I'm able to pick up some experience and update you guys on the triple-A Ranger prospects.)
Yesterday, I talked about how Justin Grimm's major league stint, mediocre results and all, didn't prevent him from returning to form dominating the minor leagues when sent back down. For Martin Perez, it was just about the opposite. His call up to the majors resulted in a couple very positive outcomes on the mound, but in his first start with the Express since being sent down on August 1st, he once again was plagued by the same problems that have been pestering him all season.
In sixteen games for Round Rock this year, Martin Perez's 4.59 ERA is paired with disappointing peripherals, a 4.1 BB/9 and a 5.2 K/9. On Sunday night, he once again struggled with his command with four walks, including two in a 27-pitch second inning. He showed good movement with his off-speed pitches, inducing seven swinging strikes, but ended the night with just one strikeout because he couldn't command it with two strikes. Prematurely removed after the fifth inning, Perez threw just seventy pitches, forty of them being strikes. His final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, and 11/21 first pitch strikes.
With all of that said, Martin Perez is the youngest player in triple-A baseball (as of the start of the season). The fact that he is able to hang with players a full two or three years more mature than him is the reason he's one of the very best prospects the Rangers have. For a situation as unique as this, it's hard to say that Martin isn't exceeding expectations.
The offense for the Express looked dismal for seven innings, mustering just three hits, before exploding for five runs in the bottom of the eight. Julio Borbon, once again playing left field for the Express, is a strange case indeed. The hero last night thanks to a two-run walk-off single, he was 1/4 and attempted two bunts. The first, down the first base line, made it past the pitcher but reached the first baseman in time for him to recover and tag out a sliding Borbon. The next one, on the heels of a three-run Luis Hernandez homer, he dropped down the other base line to reach first successfully.
His fellow outfielder Leonys Martin had a poor day at the plate, going hitless with a walk. He also made a strong defensive play from center, showcasing his arm by throwing out a runner going home on a single. Recently demoted Brandon Synder, playing third base, was one for four from the plate with a line drive RBI single in the eight. For the record, he also made an incredible diving snare of a ground ball up the third base line, but the ball was ruled foul.
There's something about me and Express games, though, that demands a flair of the dramatic. Last week, when I saw Neftali Feliz's final start of 2012, the game went into the tenth before a walk-off win, and last night it was Borbon's single. We'll pick up this game in the ninth inning, right after that five-run bottom of the eighth scoring explosion I mentioned. Unfortunately, there's no Joe Nathan, or even an Alexi Ogando, hanging around in the Express bullpen. Albuquerque tacked on three more runs to take a one run lead.
And it began again. Catcher Luis Martinez, batting in the nine-hole, added onto his 4-4 night from the plate with a double into the right field corner. Martin grounded out, but in productive fashion by moving the runner to third so 2B Luis Hernandez hit a fly ball just deep enough for him to score. All good things must come to an end, unfortunately. The Albuquerque first baseman Matt Clark hit a grand slam with two outs, and despite my presence, there was no walk-off magic to be found in that ensuing bottom of the tenth.