Looking to put an atrocious spring training start behind him, Perez will try to lead the Mets to their first sweep of the Cincinnati Reds since 2005 in the finale of a three-game series on Thursday.
After an inconsistent 2008, the Mets’ No. 3 starter didn’t provide a good sign for a better campaign Saturday during a 9-3 exhibition loss to Boston in New York’s second game at new Citi Field. Expected to throw two innings, Perez recorded two outs and gave up six runs - one earned - with two hits and four walks before leaving the field to a chorus of discontented Mets backers.
After winning a career-best 15 games with a 3.56 ERA in 2007, the left-hander took a step back last season, slumping to 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA while never winning more than two straight outings. In his final six road starts, however, he was 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA.
Perez is 9-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 18 career starts against the Reds and split two games last season, pitching six innings in each and allowing five earned runs. He has a 4-2 record in Cincinnati, but took a 7-2 loss there on July 19, allowing six runs—two earned—and six hits in six innings.
The Mets’ refurbished bullpen survived another test in Wednesday’s 9-7 victory as new acquisitions Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez allowed one run and one hit. Rodriguez, who had a major league record 62 saves last year with the Los Angeles Angels, loaded the bases with one out in the ninth on two walks and an error before getting a strikeout and a flyout to deep center to earn his second save with his new team in as many chances.
The Mets now look for their first sweep of Cincinnati since May 16-18, 2005, and three straight wins for the first time since a 4-0 start in 2007.
“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t quick, but we got a win,” said Carlos Delgado, who had a homer and four RBIs on Wednesday. “You have to find a way to win. Good teams do that.”
The Reds will counter with right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who was not expected to start this early after enduring carpal tunnel soreness in his throwing arm. Arroyo also struggled in his final spring start - a 12-4 loss Friday in Zebulon, N.C., to the team’s Double-A affiliate, giving up six runs and seven hits, including two home runs.
After Reds manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Dick Pole initially decided to delay Arroyo’s debut until Sunday, the veteran convinced them to give him his original start back after throwing well during a 40-pitch bullpen session March 29.
“Bronson, I felt, was telling the truth. I trust him,” Baker told the Reds’ official Web site. “He told me and Dick Pole that he felt good. Dick (agreed) so we changed our minds back again.”
Arroyo will try to top last season’s career-high 15 wins, which he achieved by winning 11 of his final 17 starts. He is 4-2 with a 3.48 ERA in his career against the Mets and won twice last season while giving up three runs.
He will try to cool off Delgado, who had his second straight multi-hit game Wednesday. Delgado is 4-for-21 with one home run against Arroyo.
After hitting .297 with 24 home runs in his first full season, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto also recorded his first homer among three hits Wednesday. He was 1-for-6 against Perez in 2008.