Rookie Perez homers to cap Indians route over Yankees, 9-3
Tribe bullpen comes up big as offense rallies for nine runs late
CLEVELAND—Roberto Perez will remember Thursday night for the rest of his life.
Making his Major League debut, the 25 year-old catcher’s dream came true in front of his very eyes.
Leading New York 4-3 in the eighth, Indians bats exploded for five runs in the inning, capped off by Perez’s first big league home run. The two-run shot increased the Tribe lead and they never looked back, routing the Yanks, 9-3.
“I don’t think I was nervous, I was just anxious,” Perez said. “I just wanted to be out there. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I just tried to put the ball in play.”
He would have to wait to circle the base though, as the home run was reviewed by home plate umpire Brian Knight and his crew. A long two minutes later, it was pure bliss for the Puerto Rican native.
“I was just waiting for the review,” Perez said. “As soon as I hit it, I thought I hit it well. It was crazy, I still can’t believe it. It was awesome to be out there with these guys and it was a great moment.”
To throw even more craziness to the story, the Tribe catcher hit the homer using one of Asdrubal Cabrera’s bats, running out of lumber one pitch before belting the long ball.
“It was a lighter bat than I use,” Perez said. “I'm just lucky I got it out. I’m going to ask him for some more.”
He couldn’t have picked a hotter bat either.
Shutout 3-0 through six innings, it was Cabrera that came through in the clutch with the bases loaded against Yankees reliever Matt Thorton (0-3, 3.10 ERA). The switch-hitter cleared the bases with three-run triple to tie up the ballgame at three in the seventh.
New York starter David Phelps held the Tribe scoreless through the first five innings, before allowing leadoff singles to left fielder Chris Dickerson and Perez (his first big league hit). The Yankees right-hander went six solid innings giving up two runs on seven hits, walking three and striking out five.
Like Phelps, Indians starter T.J. House also ended up with a no-decision Thursday. Making his fourth start at Progressive Field, the southpaw lasted only 4 2/3 innings surrendering three runs on eight hits.
“I thought there was a lot of traffic,” manager Terry Francona said. “Saying that, even with all his hits and everything, we didn’t really do him any favors defensively.”
House let two Yankee rookies get the best of him. First, a two-run homer by Zelous Wheeler in the fourth inning and then an RBI single from Yangervis Solarte in the fifth.
“T.J. and I, we’ve been together for three or four years now, so I know what he’s got and his strengths,” Perez said.
Like they have all series and for most this season, the Tribe bullpen picked up House nicely, recording 4 1/3 innings of shutout ball after he exited.
“Our bullpen came in and kept the score where it was, so when you get ahead, it’s meaningful,” Francona said.
Vinnie Pestano and Kyle Crockett each tossed 2/3 of scoreless innings, and were teamed up by solid one inning efforts from Carlos Carrasco, Scott Atchison and Nick Hagadone. The right-handed Carrasco (2-3, 3.74 ERA) continues to thrive and dominate in relief, picking up his second win of the year.
Since being moved to the Tribe ‘pen last year, Carrasco is an unbeaten 3-0 with a 1.55 ERA over 46 1/3 innings of work, striking out 42.
Scoring nine runs on 15 hits, Cleveland (45-46) collects at least 10 hits for the third consecutive game, now having accomplished the feat in five of their last six.
“You want to rack up all the wins obviously before the break,” Dickerson said. “You want to have a nice head of steam coming out of it.”
Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later on Monday, the 32 year-old outfielder hasn’t missed a beat since joining the Tribe. Going 3-for-4 with a double in the series finale with New York, Dickerson has hit in all four games as an Indian.
“It’s one thing just to come in and get settled in the clubhouse, get acclimated to the ballpark and the schedule and all that stuff,” he said. “But coming in and contributing is a huge deal. I’m just fortunate I’ve been in this position before, and I know to kind of take it easy and not to do too much in making a first impression with a new team."
His locker in the clubhouse also happens to be right next to Perez.
“Watching him prepare, it’s cool just being around that,” Dickerson said of the Cleveland catcher. “You know it’s a big deal thinking back to what it was like in your first big league game. To come out and have success, you have to feel great for the guy. The home run was unbelievable.”
Going 2-for-3 with his first big league hit and home run, Perez becomes the first Indians player since Gene Leek in 1959 to have at least one homer, one walk two hits and two RBI in his first career game.
Three batters after the Perez blast, All-Star Michael Brantley got into the fold. The center fielder drove home his team-leading 62nd RBI with a base-hit before Carlos Santana went deep for his 14th homer off Yankees reliever Jim Miller in the eighth, securing a win and a four-game series split.
“We got this tonight and I think we made a statement that we’re on a good track as far as offensively,” Dickerson said. “Hopefully we can keep that spark going into the break.”
Up next for the Tribe: The Wahoos open up their last three-game home series before the All-Star break Friday night, as division rival Chicago come to town. Corey Kluber (8-6, 2.86 ERA) gets the start for Cleveland opposite of White Sox right-hander Hecor Noesi (3-5, 4.13 ERA) at 7:05 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was wondering the same thing after last night's game, whether maybe Tribe C lead the league in homers. In games he's played C, Santana does not have a homer (who knows if that correlation is also causation, but I know more than a few would believe it).
Anyway, that leaves us with Gomes' 11, Kottaras' 3 and Perez's 1 for 15. That puts Cleveland 3rd in team HR by a C, trailing Cincinnati (18) and Atlanta (16)
And what about Dickerson? I have to say I've been nothing but impressed at how smoothly he's stepped into the lineup. Just seems like the game comes to him easily. A much needed professional bat and offensive spark. What a great find and addition by the F.O.!
Lastly, I was in favor of Carrasco as a starter as he struggled through his abortive trail in the rotation early in the season. While I still think his most valuable position to the team is as a starter, if the success he's had to date in the pen is truly not translatable to the rotation, then I will gladly accept him as another dominant piece of the bullpen. Great to see him thriving in any role.
Great to see contributions from these unexpected sources, a much needed shot in the arm!
I didn't realize how thick bodied Perez is, perhaps he's just a late bloomer with the bat and he hits enough to be a good backup caddy for the pitching staff.
I give credit to Tony who one of the first to mention back in spring training or right after the season started that Kipnis best place in the batting order was to lead off.