CLEVELAND -- Anxious about his first postseason, Indians catcher Roberto Pérez talked with Mike Napoli before Thurday's 5-4 victory over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Napoli, who has played in seven of the past nine postseasons, told him to not to do too
CLEVELAND -- Anxious about his first postseason, Indians catcher Roberto Pérez talked with Mike Napoli before Thurday's 5-4 victory over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Napoli, who has played in seven of the past nine postseasons, told him to not to do too much and that if he takes good at-bats, good things will happen.
Perez did just that by homering and scoring twice with a crucial tagout at home plate and a tagup of second to boot.
Perez played a big role from the start, when Hanley Ramirez doubled home Dustin Pedroia in the first inning. Brock Holt tried to make it home from first, but thanks to Francisco Lindor's relay and Holt's head-first slide, Perez was able to tag his leg in time.
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Home-plate umpire Brian Knight originally ruled Holt safe at home, but the Indians challenged the call. After a 45-second review, replay officials overturned the call, and Perez helped hold Boston's lead to one run.
"I knew I got him," Perez said. "I just didn't know if he got his hand before I tagged. I put a great tag on him, and it ended up an out, so that was huge. ... I think if he'd have slid normally [he would have been safe], but he slid head-first, so I tagged him on the leg."
Then came the offense.
The offensive outburst was a pleasant surprise considering Perez hit .183 in 153 at-bats this season. Through August, he was hitting just .154, but he turned it on in the last month to hit a more respectable .226.
"Early in the year I kind of struggled," Perez said. "Later in the year at the end of the season, I was really feeling myself. I was getting more comfortable at the plate. Tonight I was just trying to put the ball in play and get good ABs, and good things will happen."
Perez keyed a huge third inning for Cleveland with a leadoff homer, a 381-foot shot according to Statcast™. He hit just three homers during the regular season and saw a drought of 63 plate appearances before his final one Sept. 26.
Perez came through again Thursday to lead off the fifth with a rocket off the wall in left for a single -- the exit velocity of 110.9 mph was his hardest-hit ball of the season. Both the homer and single off Rick Porcello qualified as barrels after he only had six during the regular season, and the two hits also gave him his fifth multi-hit game of 2016.
"I was feeling good," Perez said. "I was seeing the ball well tonight. I was trying to get [Porcello] early, because he's tough once you get to two strikes, so it worked out."
Although not normally known for his speed, Perez utilized his baserunning acumen to help score a run after his long single. Carlos Santana hit a deep fly ball to left fielder Andrew Benintendi, and Perez caught Benintendi sleeping by tagging up to take second. One batter later, he scored on Jason Kipnis' single to center.
"I think the ball kept carrying," Perez said. "I knew I'm known as a slow runner, so he hesitated, probably too confident about me not trying to run. ... This game is about playing hard, and I was just trying to play hard."
"Yeah, he played a real good game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He swung the bat. His baserunning -- I thought that was an outstanding tag at first. I'm not sure if it was a slide or a car accident or what going into second. But that was a nice piece of heads-up baserunning for us, and that's the things we have to do to win."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com.