Covering the Bases: Game 91

PerezFinal: Indians 9, Yankees 3

FIRST: You know the famous line from “The Natural.” Roy Hobbs heads out of the batter’s box, stops at the bat boy, looks down at him and says those six words that led to baseball movie magic.

“Pick me out a winner, Bobby.”

On Thursday night in Cleveland, the Indians tweaked the storyline a bit. In need of a bat in the eighth inning, rookie Roberto Perez headed back to the dugout, searched for a strip of lumber and saw Asdrubal Cabrera.

“Pick me out a winner, Cabby.”

Hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Perez did break his bat in the eighth inning. He actually broke both of the bats he had readily available to him in his Major League debut. With a runner on second base and one out, the first-year catcher was scrambling as the umpire waited to get the game restarted.

“He was a little flustered,” Indians manager Terry Francona said

Enter Cabrera.

“Cabrera just gave me his,” Perez said. “It was a lighter bat than I use.”

It did the job, though not without even more drama involved. Perez lifted the next pitch, a 3-2 fastball from Yankees reliever Jim Miller, deep to left field. The ball hit off the top of the 19-foot wall, caromed off the railing and headed back into play. Perez was given an RBI double, but Francona jogged to the field to see if the umps would check where the ball landed on replay. The crew obliged and — after more than two minutes — the call was overturned.

Perez had his first Major League home run in his big league debut.

“The home run was unbelievable,” Indians outfielder Chris Dickerson said. “I told him, ‘Could you have picked a more dramatic home run for your first time? With the replay and all that?’ It was pretty cool.”

Perez smiled when asked about the stressful wait out at second base.

“I didn’t know,” Perez said. “As soon as I hit it, I thought I hit it well, but we had to wait. It was crazy. I still can’t believe it, man. It was awesome to be out there with these guys. That was a great moment.”

Perez — promoted from Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday to be the Tribe’s new backup catcher — wasn’t even supposed to start on Thursday. The baseball gods saw fit to move his first big league start up by forcing the Indians and Yankees to play a 14-inning contest on Wednesday night. Yan Gomes caught every frame for Cleveland. So, in order to give Gomes a rest, the 25-year-old Perez learned that he’d be behind the plate on Thursday.

Naturally, lefty T.J. House, who has been a teammate of Perez’s for several years in the Minor Leagues, was on the mound for the Indians.

“It was awesome,” House said. “I’ve played with him since 2008, every level. This is the final little stop, I guess you could say. It’s just awesome. I’m very proud of him. He’s a good ballplayer and I’m glad he’s getting the ability to show off the talent he has.”

In the win, Perez went 2-for-3 with the home run, a single, two runs scored and two RBIs. He is the first Cleveland batter to have at least one homer, one walk, two hits and two RBIs in his first career game since 1959 (Gene Leek). Perez is only the ninth Major League player in the past 100 seasons to have that line in his first career game. The previous player to do so was Eduardo Perez (Angels) in 1993. Perez is the first Indians hitter to belt a homer in his MLB debut since 2006 (Kevin Kouzmanoff).

SECOND: Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis finished the night 3-for-4 with one walk, two runs and two stolen bases for the Indians. In doing so, Kipnis tied a franchise record (done 18 times by 12 players) with three consecutive multi-hit games that include at least one stolen base. Omar Vizquel last achieved the feat in 1998. Others on the list include Kenny Lofton (four times), Miguel Dilone (three times), Brett Butler (twice), Julio Franco, Tris Speaker and Ray Chapman, among others.

Kipnis actually has seven hits and five stolen bases in his past three games. Over his past 15 games, Kipnis has hit .323 (19-for-62) with six extra-base hits and 12 runs scored. He has no home runs and only two RBIs in that span, but the positive side has included the high average, solid speed numbers and eight multi-hit games.

“Not that I don’t care what his batting average is,” Francona said, “but there’s so much trust in Kip that he’ll be there. His  presence, wherever he hits in the lineup, his ability to run the bases — that’s a given with me. Just let him go play. He’ll figure it out. “

THIRD: There was plenty of offense squeezed into this one. Or, more specifically, into the seventh and eighth innings (nine runs on 10 hits combined). Cabrera had a three-run triple, Michael Brantley had two RBIs (one on a sac fly and another on a single), Perez had his replay-assisted home run and Carlos Santana had a two-run shot of his own. Outfielder Chris Dickerson also chipped in three hits in the win.

Cleveland acquired Dickerson on Monday to help the depth after the Indians lost Michael Bourn (possibly for a month) to another left hamstring injury. All he’s done since coming up from Triple-A Indy to the Tribe is go 7-for-15 at the plate. His three-hit showing on Thursday tied a career best for hits and Dickerson scored twice.

“That’s what you hope for,” Dickerson said. “It’s one thing just to come in and get settled in the clubhouse and just getting acclimated to the ballpark, the schedule, all that stuff. But, coming in and contributing is a huge deal. I’m just fortunate. I’ve been in this position before. I know just to kind of take it easy and not try to do too much in making a first impression with a new team. So, I’ve kind of just sat back, relaxed and I’m trying to make hard contact — that’s it. Keep things simple.”

HOME: The Indians bullpen played a key role in this game, which felt like two tilts wrapped in one. House (4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP) wasn’t particularly sharp, though it’s fair to note that a handful of defensive miscues did not help him along. After House was pulled following 94 rocky pitches, Cleveland’s reliable relief corps stepped in with 4.1 shutout frames. The Indians bullpen has now given up just one earned run over its last 22.1 innings.

“Our bullpen came in and kept the score where it was,” Francona said.

On deck:

White Sox (44-49) at Indians (45-46)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Friday at Progressive Field

–JB

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