Martín Pérez exited his start Sunday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays to the resounding boos and sarcastic cheers from the 22,595 fans at Fenway Park who strenuously voiced their dissatisfaction.
After just 1⅓ innings, Pérez’s harsh critics in the stands had seen enough.
His day, mercifully, was over after giving up five runs on six hits, including three of Toronto’s franchise-wrecking eight home runs allowed by Sox pitching, in an 18-4 rout. It did little to soothe the alarming concerns over the tailspin of Boston’s starting rotation.
To think Pérez’s outing could be worse than his previous one — a 7-1 loss Tuesday against the Astros during which the lefthander surrendered six runs on six hits in two innings — seemed virtually unfathomable.
But, indeed, it was.
His 2-2 record and 2.20 career ERA against the Jays was sent flying toward Lansdowne Street accompanied by the three homers Pérez yielded during his treacherous performance. It set the stage for a record-setting Toronto offensive onslaught, during which the Jays set season highs for runs, hits (20), homers (8), and extra-base hits (11).
All of the runs Pérez surrendered came by the long ball, beginning with Teoscar Hernández’s three-run shot in the first. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made it 4-0 with a solo shot later in the inning. Following a Cavan Biggio double, Sox pitching coach Dave Bush began his cardio routine with an early mound visit.
In the second, Marcus Semien belted a homer to center, giving the Jays a 5-0 lead. After Bo Bichette singled to right, Pérez’s day was over, with Ryan Weber taking over.
“I’m not locating at all where I want it,” Pérez said afterward. “When you do locate, you can have a great game. I mean it’s not an excuse. My last two outings, they have been hitting me good.”
Sunday marked Pérez’s shortest outing since July of 2015 when Pérez was with the Texas Rangers.
Weber, who was recalled before the game, did not fare any better. He was left to roast in the 83-degree heat for 5⅔ innings because of a depleted bullpen that has overworked by an underperforming Sox rotation over the last week.
Weber, too, wound up getting get romped, but worse. The righthander surrendered 13 hits and 11 runs (all earned), including four homers. In the eighth and ninth, the Sox sent position players Marwin Gonzalez and Christian Arroyo to the mound, respectively.
The Sox yielded a franchise-record eight homers. Red Sox starters have allowed 40 earned runs in the last nine games.
“It’s been a horrible week for us pitching-wise,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “Obviously, we had some comebacks, but for us to keep going and stay where we are, we have to pitch. We faced two good hitting teams [Houston and Toronto], but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve played some good hitting teams before.”
The Red Sox (39-27) will try to salvage a series split Monday and avoid losing their second series in a row.
With Chris Sale on the mend from Tommy John surgery, Boston’s starting pitching was a big question coming into the season. But the starters exceeded expectations by performing well, really, up until the series with the Astros, which exposed some problems with the rotation.
It gave rise to lingering questions: Have opposing teams adjusted? Does the league now have the book on the Red Sox? Cora rejected those notions.
What about fatigue?
“I’m sure it’s part of it,” said Bush, who also noted his starters aren’t executing. “I mean, look, we’re past what last year was. All the starters, and probably most of the relievers, have passed their innings totals from [the pandemic-shortened season in 2020]. So there’s definitely a fatigue factor. We knew that coming in, we planned for a longer year.”
With Major League Baseball looking to crack down on pitchers using foreign substances to improve their grip on the ball, Perez bristled at the notion his recent downturn was in any way related to the curb on the usage of any sticky substances, such as Spider Tack.
He vehemently denied using any substance to enhance his grip, spin rate, or movement the his ball during any part of his career.
“I’m not a cheating pitcher, man,” Pérez said. “I’ve been around for a long time and I don’t use that kind of stuff. I just go out there and compete with what I have that day. I don’t put anything on my arm. I don’t put anything on my glove. You know, whoever does, that’s their problem.”
But, as this week has revealed, the Red Sox might have a sticky problem with their starting pitching.