Covering the Bases: Game 44
Indians 2, Tigers 1
FIRST: Maybe it’s a coincidence. Indians closer Chris Perez isn’t so sure. Since making his well-publicized comments calling for more fan support at home, there has been a noticeable buzz inside Progressive Field.
Granted, the weather has improved and the rival Tigers were in town. Even so, the Indians just completed a three-game sweep of Detroit with some encouraging crowds on hand and the Indians players felt a bit more energy from the fans at their home ballpark.
“It’s great,” Perez said. “I cant remember a day crowd like this — honestly. I think we had more than we had last night. It’s starting to catch on and it’s fun.”
The Indians drew 25,622 for Thursday’s noon game. For last Thursday’s (May 17) noon game against the Mariners, the Indians drew 12,894. It was in that game that Perez was booed by the local fans, lighting a fire for his vent sessions on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Well, the fans responded to Perez by offering him rousing standing ovations in each of his three appearances in the series against the Tigers. The closer showed his appreciation by collecting a save in each win over Detroit.
Don’t look not, but the Indians have a six-game lead on the Tigers in the division. That’s the same margin the clubs had between them a year ago on this date. Why can this season be different? Well, the Indians do not feel like they’ve peaked yet. Last year at this time, the Indians could do little wrong.
As to whether the team cares about getting any national attention, well, let’s just had the mic back to Perez for a second…
“I don’t think we care,” Perez said. “We’re not like flipping on ESPN to see if we’re leading off SportsCenter. We don’t care. They do their thing. They cover the Yankees and the Red Sox and how bad the Angels are. We’re doing our own thing. They’ll eventually turn. I saw a couple articles. We’re starting to get some love.
“It’s just we don’t have the star power. You look over there and you’ve got Cabrera and Fielder and Verlander and Valverde. But that doesn’t win baseball games. Good teams win baseball games.”
SECOND: The Justin Verlander v. Justin Masterson matchup lived up to expectations.
Verlander’s line: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 117 (79)
Masterson’s line: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 4 K, 100 (64)
“I’m glad I could watch it,” Perez said. “I was a fan again.”
In the eighth inning, Verlander did what he does better than anyone. He reached back and began hitting triple digits with his pitch count climbing well beyond 100. He hit 100 mph and 101 mph a few times, and was clocked at 102 mph once. Verlander struck out Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera in the inning.
(Choo had already done his part with a leadoff homer in the first inning)
“I mean, I tried to hit 100 the whole game and it never works,” Masterson quipped. “It’s 89 and, ‘Whoa. I can’t even get in the 90s anymore?’ It’s impressive to be able to do that. More or less it seemed like he was just toying out there, just going to blow it by.”
Masterson, meanwhile, sidestepped trouble at multiple turns. That’s the mark of a good sinkerballer.
THIRD: WTAM’s Nick Camino was calling on everyone to tweet that it is #LopeyTime and it’s hard to argue. Jose Lopez has taken full advantage of the opportunity that has arisen via Jack Hannahan’s back injury. Lopez drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Over that stretch, Lopez has hit .353 (12-for-34) with one home run, four doubles and seven RBIs for the Indians.
Lopez also contributed a key defensive play in the second inning. Brennan Boesch doubled and then moved to third on a groundout to Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. Jhonny Peralta then rolled over a slider from Masterson, sending it down the third-base line. Lopez gloved the ball and gunned down Boesch at the plate.
“That was great,” Masterson said. “To be able to make that play at home and keep that run from scoring was great.”
HOME: During the seventh inning, Indians manager Manny Acta headed to the mound with one out and runners on the corners for a chat with Masterson. Reliever Joe Smith, thinking he was being called into the game, exited the bullpen and began jogging into the outfield.
When Smith saw Acta was allowing Masterson to stay in the game, the reliever quickly retreated back into the bullpen.
“I thought I was in,” Smith said. “Everybody thought I was in, so I was like, ‘Let’s go. Whatever. I’ll face him.’ It was a good decision to leave that big boy in. I did a little sprint. I got my cardio in for the day.”
A reporter told Masterson that Smith was running in from the bullpen before turning around.
And then, Masterson couldn’t help himself.
“Did he forget his I.D.?” Masterson quipped to a loud eruption of laughter.
Yeah, he went there.
Smith had jokes, too.
“The cop asked me where I was going,” said the reliever. “He said, ‘Who are you? Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Come on, man. I’m in uniform and everything.'”
If you’re missing the joke, well, a quick internet search can bring you up to speed.
Indians (26-18) at White Sox (22-22)*
at 8:10 p.m. ET on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field
*Does not include Thursday’s result
Oh, and hey, the White Sox are in second place in the Central…
“A lot is being made about us and Detroit,” Acta said, “but the White Sox are playing pretty good baseball and are right on our tail.”