Tribe salvages series behind Perez's clutch HR

Cleveland wins fourth straight season set over Central-leading Minnesota

September 15th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Indians watched the American League Central slip farther out of reach after getting swept in Saturday’s doubleheader against the Twins, but the team knew it had no time to get caught up in the division race when a Wild Card spot is on the line.

“The best thing we can do is come out and play a good game today,” Indians manager Terry Francona said before the game. “That’s really the only thing. I can give you about 19 cliches. Yesterday’s done. We can’t undo that. What we can do is try to put our best foot forward today.”

With a little help from some defensive blunders by the Twins, the Indians bounced back on Sunday with a 7-5 victory at Progressive Field. Although the win gave the Tribe the edge in the season series for the fourth straight season, going 10-9 against Minnesota this year, Cleveland dropped the crucial final series of the season against the first-place Twins and sits 4 1/2 games out in the AL Central.

“You play really good games and then out of nowhere you’re behind,” Indians catcher said. “It’s tough, but I think we got the right people in the clubhouse. They’re gamers. They go out there and they like to play. So I think the thing about today was going out there, playing the game the right way and have fun and see what happens. We played really well.”

Indians starter notched 200 innings on the year in his first full big league season in Sunday’s outing, but he gave up more than three earned runs for the first time since July 19 when Eddie Rosario and LaMonte Wade Jr. each took the 24-year-old right-hander deep in the sixth. But Bieber’s batterymate was there to spare him of a loss in the bottom half of the frame.

Just moments after Twins relievers were up on their feet, cheering with their hands over their heads as they lined the fence that separates the Minnesota and Cleveland bullpens on Wade’s first career homer, Perez quickly put them back in their seats. After , who later exited the game with right wrist discomfort, scored on a fielding error, Perez delivered the go-ahead three-run blast just a few feet in front of the Twins’ bullpen.

“Yeah, that was good ‘cause it kinda felt like a punch in the stomach,” Francona said. “It was nice to answer, and 'Berto obviously takes a great swing, but there were some things that led up to it, too, though.”

Perez continues to increase his career-high home run numbers, launching his 23rd long ball of the season. Entering 2019, the Tribe’s backstop had hit 21 combined homers through the first five years of his career. After taking a ball off the right cheek on a ricochet off his shoulder in a plate appearance on Saturday, he added to his long laundry list of battle wounds on Sunday, taking a ball off the left knee.

“Sometimes I think you get to this point in the year, I know they’re hanging, but it’s like a badge of honor, like, ‘I’m going to go out there anyway and show them,’” Francona said. “The biggest thing with 'Berto -- it’s easy, I could see how it could happen, but it doesn’t happen with him, is that you lose your concentration -- because he can’t. He’s got to get those pitchers through the game, and he does a really good job with that.”

The home run tied Perez for fourth most by a catcher in a single season in Cleveland history, and it marked his fifth go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later this year.

“I’m glad the way my season is going well, but I just want to make the playoffs,” Perez said. “You work for that. Still haven’t thought about that stuff. Just got to continue to come to the ballpark ready to play every day. Twelve games left. See if we make the playoffs.”

Because of the two losses on Saturday, the Indians' postseason odds were nearly halved, dropping from 45.7 percent to 25.2 percent, according to FanGraphs. The team is 1 1/2 games back of the Rays for the second AL Wild Card spot after Tampa Bay's loss to the Angels.

“I’d like to see them have a good off-day tomorrow because they deserve it,” Francona said. “And then we’ll see if we can beat Detroit on Tuesday. That’s the best way to go about it. In the meantime, we’ll hope some teams lose, but I haven’t figured out how to control that yet."