NEW YORK (AP)—More and more, it appears the Oliver Perez who turned heads in 2004 with Pittsburgh is back.
The talented-but-erratic lefty, who has struggled mightily at times with his control the last few years, had no such problems Wednesday. He struck out a season-high 10 and singled twice to start New York rallies as the Mets avoided a three-game sweep with a 6-3 victory over the Florida Marlins.
“He didn’t seem to struggle with that at all today. He hit the spots he needed to when he needed to,” Marlins right fielder Joe Borchard said.
Perez (3-2) allowed three runs—one earned—and three hits in 5 2-3 innings. He walked three in his 17th career double-digit strikeout game, and second with the Mets. The other one also came against Florida on Sept. 12, when he whiffed 11.
“He’s been good all year. He was good again today,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “He popped the ball pretty good early. So long as he throws strikes and gets ahead early, he’s going to be OK.”
In 2004 with the Pirates, Perez went 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 196 innings. In the following two seasons, he was 10-18 with an ERA above 6.00.
“I’m starting to feel more confident. I’m feeling really good right now,” said Perez, who threw 98 pitches, 58 for strikes.
Mixing a nasty slider with a steady diet of fastballs, Perez struck out two batters in each of the first five innings. He had fanned nine in each of his last two games, and now has 28 strikeouts in 19 1-3 innings in his past three outings.
“He pitched really good,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s always had good stuff. The command was there, the breaking ball was there. We had a tough time getting good swings against him.”
Aaron Boone’s single sandwiched between two walks loaded the bases in the sixth. Borchard lined to third base for what should have been the third out, but the ball deflected off David Wright’s glove for an error that allowed two runs to score. Perez was replaced by Joe Smith, who struck out pinch-hitter Mike Jacobs to end the inning.
It was Wright’s second error of the game, fifth of the season.
Smith, a rookie, pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings and has now thrown 14 2-3 innings without allowing a run.
“He’s getting better and better,” Randolph said. “I’m learning to trust him more and more.”
Smith left with two on and one out in the eighth as the Marlins brought the potential tying run to the plate. Scott Schoeneweis relieved and Borchard hit a low liner to shortstop, but Reyes made a sprawling catch and doubled off Boone at second base.
It could have been much worse. Sanchez allowed seven hits and four walks in 3 1-3 innings. The Mets left 10 runners on base in the first four innings. Every New York batter had been on base by the end of the fourth.
“I just try to throw strikes, but the fastball is up a lot,” Sanchez said.
Green extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a double in the second inning. Ruben Gotay, making his first start for the Mets, singled past a diving Uggla at second to drive in Green, tying the score at 1.
Sanchez had a frightening moment in the first inning when Wright’s line drive appeared to smack him in the left leg and ricocheted all they way to first base for the third out. Sanchez went down in pain and trainers rushed out to his aid. After about a minute he got up and was helped off the field. He stayed in the game.
After the game, Sanchez said the ball actually hit him on the side of his right knee, and it didn’t affect his pitching. Gonzalez said he expects Sanchez to be ready for his next start.
Reyes was chosen NL player of the month for April, and Mets RHP John Maine got the honors for NL pitchers. Reyes hit .356 with 26 runs and led the majors with 17 steals entering Wednesday. Maine went 4-0, and his 1.35 ERA led the majors for the month. The tandem became the first Mets teammates to win the awards since Dwight Gooden and Gary Carter in September 1985. “It’s even better to share this with a teammate,” Reyes said.