ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds had not faced each other since 2007. And if Friday night’s game is a barometer for what will happen during the rest of the three-game series, the Reds will be happy to wait another six years before playing the Rangers again.
The Rangers scored three runs early and that was plenty for starter Martin Perez, who pitched a masterpiece in Texas’s 4-0 victory.
Texas improved to 47-33, have won eight of its last nine games and kept its half-game lead in the American League West.
The Reds (46-34) were shut out for the second consecutive night and now have lost seven of their past eight games.
Perez (2-1), who was coming off a strong performance on Sunday when he stifled the St. Louis Cardinals, gave up six hits in 6 2/3 innings while striking out three.
“I don’t like to do too much on the mound,” Perez said. “I just have to continue to do my job and continue going on. I just want to be quick out there and throw strikes.”
Perez, making just his second start after being recalled from Triple-A, relied on
his defense for much of the game, forcing 10 groundball outs. He escaped jams in the second and fifth thanks to double plays.
Perez pointed to the pivotal second inning for his success on the night, saying that he was able to calm down after escaping the threat.
“It was big,” Perez said. “After that inning I just wanted to continue throwing to the target and throw quality pitches.”
The left-hander ran into trouble in the seventh though, and departed with two outs and the bases loaded for reliever Jason Frasor. Frasor needed just two pitches to end the threat and keep the Reds off the scoreboard.
Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto (4-2) left the game after just three pitches in the second inning. He complained of tightness in his right lat muscle, which has bothered him for much of the season. He already has been on the disabled list — from April 15-May 20 — because of his lat.
Texas opened the scoring off Cueto in the first on Adrian Beltre’s two-out RBI single, which scored Elvis Andrus.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said that he was unsure if Cueto could continue into the second inning — it was apparent that Cueto was laboring in the first.
“He said that he was OK and the doctor said he was OK and that it would loosen up, but it didn’t,” Baker said. “It was just a series of bad events.”
Tony Cingrani replaced Cueto in the second and struck out Mitch Moreland before running into trouble. Cingrani walked Jurickson Profar and gave up a single to David Murphy.
After Leonys Martin struck out, Cingrani walked the next three batters and Texas had a 3-0 lead.
“When you have a guy that is struggling to find the zone you try to keyhole him and make him throw it right there,” Rangers first basemen Moreland said. “We had a big inning that set the tone of the game.”
Profar added an insurance run in the fifth on a single that scored Beltre.
The Reds had a chance to score in their half of the second but wasted back-to-back singles by Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Perez induced Todd Frazier to ground into a double play and Chris Heisey popped out to end the threat.
“We couldn’t buy a run,” Baker said. “We had guys in scoring position multiple times and we couldn’t get a hit.”
Baker said that the Rangers starter did a good job in mixing up pitches and was throwing strikes, but pointed to the Reds struggles of late.
“When you’re not scoring runs over a period of time, everyone looks good,” Baker said. “He is another pitcher that we haven’t seen before and we have seen a lot of pitchers over this streak of games for the first time.”
Cincinnati left seven men on base overall and finished 0-for-10 from the plate with runners in scoring position.