ARLINGTON -- Martin Perez hardly wanted to talk about Monday. All he kept mentioning was next season. The rookie's success this season gave him the opportunity to pitch against the Rays in Monday night's tiebreaker, but the lack of experience showed early in the 5-2 loss.
Perez couldn't command his pitches in the first inning as he dealt with the nerves of a postseason berth on the line. He allowed a line drive on the first pitch to Desmond Jennings and needed an outfield assist from Craig Gentry to record the first out. Perez then walked Wil Myers, who scored three batters later on Delmon Young's sacrifice fly to put the Rangers in an early 1-0 hole.
"I just started to throw the ball and not throw the ball with my body," Perez said. "I tried to overthrow. It's crazy. We're going to be a good team again next year. We have to work on not coming to this [tiebreaker] game and just making the playoffs."
The rookie struggled against Evan Longoria, who had a single in the first and a two-run homer in the third with two outs. Longoria's homer came on the first pitch in an inning that started with a Jennings walk. Both walks Perez issued scored.
"He pitched well, he just wasn't locating well in the beginning," Adrian Beltre said. "I think the big hit was Longoria's home run. I think that was the big key to win the game. Besides that, he was able to compose himself, come back and keep this a three-run game."
With Alexi Ogando warming up in the bullpen, Perez ended his outing retiring eight straight after Longoria's home run. Perez recorded five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings and knew his night was done once Longoria came up to the plate with one out in the sixth.
"I was trying to throw a perfect pitch," Perez said of his early struggles. "You can't do that. I'm still learning, too, and I think next year it can't happen again, because next year is another year and more experience."
Perez found out minutes after Sunday's game that he'd would receive the ball in an attempt to send the Rangers to the playoffs. His season began on the disabled list when he fractured his forearm in Spring Training. Perez didn't join the rotation permanently until June 22 against the Cardinals due to a number of injuries to starters, and he contributed enough in the second half to gain Rangers manager Ron Washington's trust to start in Game 163.
"He showed you he likes to compete," Beltre said. "He just found out he was going to pitch last night, and he comes out and did the best he can. It showed that he's going to be a guy that grows quick, and hopefully be even better than what he did this year."
Perez finished 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA, tied for the American League rookie lead in wins and recorded the most wins for a rookie left-handed pitcher in franchise history. He was named AL Rookie of the Month in August, when he went 5-0 -- the first five-win month for a rookie in franchise history -- with a 3.06 ERA.
No wonder he kept talking about next season. The future looks bright for Perez in the rotation with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland.
"I'm really happy with the development he had this year," Elvis Andrus said. "I think he's going to learn just like everyone else on this team."
Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.