Twice as nice: Indians' Perez hits 2 homers in Series opener
CLEVELAND (AP) Once he rounded the bases a second time, propelled by a roaring crowd at Progressive Field, Roberto Perez began to understand what he had done.
''I don't think I've ever had a night like that,'' Cleveland's catcher said.
He picked a good time for it.
Known almost exclusively for his defense, Perez provided plenty of pop in Game 1 of the World Series, hitting a pair of homers - a solo shot and a three-run drive - as the Indians rolled to their fourth shutout of the postseason, 6-0 over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
The Indians love Perez's glove, arm and ability to frame pitches. Any offense they get from him is a bonus.
All he did in his debut on baseball's biggest stage was become the first Indians hitter with a multihomer game in the Series. He tied the franchise record for RBIs and joined Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome as the only Cleveland players to hit two homers in a postseason game.
Not bad for a backup catcher who batted .183 during the regular season.
''I've come a long ways. I'm just playing with a lot of confidence right now,'' said Perez, who also homered in his first at-bat of the playoffs. ''I'm not trying to do too much at the plate. I'm just trying to control my emotions. First World Series experience, and just trying to go out there and compete and try to get good ABs up there, and try to get on base and make something happen. It's an unbelievable feeling.''
The 27-year-old Perez, who had thumb surgery this season, has three homers in 27 postseason at-bats - equaling his number in 153 at-bats during the regular season.
Perez homered his first time up in the AL Division Series against Boston and on Tuesday became the first No. 9 batter to hit two homers in a World Series game.
His teammates saw it coming.
''I watch how hard he works day in and day out,'' said shortstop Francisco Lindor, who had three hits. ''He's doing it for his family. He's doing it for Puerto Rico. It's awesome to see him stepping up. I almost cried when he hit the (second) home run. He's one of my buddies on the team. I'm just super happy, super excited for him and his family.''
Perez gave the Indians a 3-0 lead in the fourth with his homer off starter Jon Lester. The left-hander attempted to sneak an 0-1 fastball past Perez, who lined it over the 19-foot wall in left field, his shot pinging off a railing.
With the Indians up 3-0 and two outs in the eighth, Perez drove a pitch from Hector Rondon into the bleachers in left, sending Indians fans into a frenzy and moving Cleveland a step closer to its first title since 1948.
As he crossed home plate, Perez delivered a double high-five to teammate Lonnie Chisenhall.
Perez's 1-2 punch flattened the Cubs. But beyond his unexpected offensive production, Perez has been excellent behind the plate in handling Cleveland's pitchers, who have complimented the way he calls a game.
''He should be a star catcher, that's the way he's heading,'' reliever Andrew Miller said. ''He doesn't even have to get a hit to validate his spot behind the plate.''
Perez worked the corners for starter Corey Kluber, who struck out nine Cubs - six of them looking.
For much of the season, Perez didn't come close to hitting his weight (220 pounds), and there was a long stretch when he was almost an automatic out in the lineup. But when starter Yan Gomes went down with a separated shoulder in July and then a broken wrist in September, Perez stepped in and the Indians haven't missed a beat.
He's the latest surprise on a surprising squad of Indians.
''What he did at the plate tonight, my goodness, that was exciting to watch,'' Indians manager Terry Francona said. ''Everybody was happy for him. You could see the way everybody reacted to it.''