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Jun 13, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Martin Perez (54) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox starter Martin Pérez was basically asked if he’s a cheater. He gave about as strong a denial as you can expect.

Since hurling 7.2 shutout innings against the Houston Astros on June 3, Perez has taken a sharp downturn in his last two starts. The Red Sox lefty has allowed 11 runs in just 3.1 combined innings over his last two starts.

Pérez’s nosedive coincides with the release of a June 4 Sports Illustrated expose on pitchers’ rampant use of powerful foreign substances on baseballs. The problem has ostensibly contributed to record lows for offense across the major leagues. In Boston, is it just a coincidence?

The Red Sox weren’t specifically accused of anything, but Pérez was asked about it after the Red Sox’ 18-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

“I’m not a cheater pitcher,” 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 got that day. I don’t put anything on my arm, I don’t put anything on my glove. Whoever did, that’s their problem.

“It’s not that we’re not pitching good for the last three or four days because of the sticky things. No. It’s because we’re not locating the pitches where we want it, and if we go back again and throw the pitch where we want, we’re going to be fine. But it’s not because we’ve been using the sticky things. No way.”

Manager Alex Cora was also asked if he sees any relation between foreign substances (or lack thereof) and the Red Sox’ recent pitching struggles.

“No,” Cora said, “I just see the relation that we’re leaving a lot of pitches right down the middle that those guys have taken advantage of.”

When you allow 18 runs in a game, like the Red Sox did on Sunday at Fenway Park, the difference between pitching well and pitching poorly goes beyond whether you’re using “sticky stuff.” And if anything, this is most certainly going on across MLB, not just in Boston. But at this point, it’s easy to draw a connection between the recent crackdown on cheating and the way the Red Sox have looked since.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.