Confident Perez had the best moment to remember
CLEVELAND — Driving up to Cleveland on Tuesday, I thought that I was the luckiest 27-year old in Northeast Ohio.
Turns out, it wasn’t me at all. It was Indians catcher Roberto Perez.
Though, Perez’s heroics in Game 1 of the World Series weren’t based solely on luck, it was his confidence that helped propel him to blast two home runs against the Cubs.
“It means a lot,” Perez said after the 6-0 victory at Progressive Field. “I’ve come a long way. I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m not trying to do too much at the plate. I’m trying to control my emotions. It’s my first World Series experience and I’m trying to go out there and compete.”
As Perez was playing in his first World Series game, I was covering my first Fall Classic from the auxiliary press box down the right field line. Though the native of Puerto Rico (who was born in December 1988) was under much more pressure than myself (who was born in February 1989), we each had butterflies as the game was getting under way.
That was evident when I dropped a can of Diet Pepsi near my deskmate’s laptop and when Perez flied out to right field in his first at bat.
“After the first AB, I think I wanted to get that out of the way,” Perez said. “I think I was thinking too hard. After that, I was just myself. I needed to trust myself more. We have a lot of respect for (Cubs starter Jon) Lester. He’s a great pitcher. I was just trying to get good ABs off him.”
The next time he dug into the batters box, in the bottom of the fourth, Perez hit a home run that just cleared the left field fence. The solo shot bounced off a railing that divides the bleacher seats and padded Cleveland’s 3-0 advantage.
“I was trying to get a piece up there and get on base and try to make something happen,” Perez said.
He didn’t just get on base, he collected eight total bases on the night.
Perez blasted a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to secure the victory. He is now the only player to have a multi-home run outing in his first Major League contest.
“You can see it growing every game with him,” said Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber. “It’s in him and with the team. It’s all right there in being confident. He’s not up there searching (at the plate). He has simplified his approach.”
Thanks in part to Perez behind the plate, Kluber was masterful on the mound. The reigning Cy Young winner struck out nine batters during six innings and allowed just four hits to a powerful Cubs lineup.
Andrew Miller and Cody Allen followed Kluber and the three pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts, six of which were looking by Chicago.
“His hands are so soft,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Perez’s pitch-framing ability. “And, he think he’s confident to boot. That’s a good combination. What he did at the plate tonight, I mean, my goodness. He gave us a cushion early and then he put it out again late. Everybody was happy for him.”
Added Perez, “Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever had a night like that.”
Neither have I.
It was an unbelievable experience.
Now, who’s ready for Game 2?
(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @HSDTsports)