CLEVELAND -- Hampered by an early-season injury that required surgery and time on the sideline, Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez did not have much time to build confidence in his skills before he was pressed back into service when starter Yan Gomes went down in mid-summer with a shoulder issue.
But as the season wore on and the games gained more meaning, Perez emerged as a standout player, both at and behind home plate. And with that emergence, Perez has gained plenty of confidence, which he put to good use with a two-home run, four-RBI performance in a 6-0 win over the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field Tuesday night.
“For me, it means a lot,” Perez said. “I've come a long ways. I'm just playing with a lot of confidence right now. 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.”
Perez is known more for his defense, and while he has managed a patchwork pitching staff due to injuries over the second half of the season, he has been able to deliver big hits throughout the postseason.
And deliver Perez did in the fourth inning of Game 1. Down in the count, 0-1, after swinging at a first-pitch strike from Cubs starter Lester, Perez smashed a belt-high fastball over the wall in left field for his second home run of the postseason.
Perez’s round-tripper gave the Indians a 3-0 lead over the Cubs.
The Indians doubled their lead to 6-0 when Perez belted a three-run home run into the bleachers in left field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
With outfielders Brandon Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall on after a walk and single respectively, Perez took a 2-2 pitch from former Indians farmhand Hector Rondon over the wall in left field for his second home run of the game and third of the postseason.
“I don't think I've ever had a night like that,” Perez said. “It was huge. I mean, getting more runs, kind of, it didn't give more pressure, you know? Cody Allen, I think you don't want to pitch with a 3-0 game. Put a couple of runs on the board in the ninth, and seal the win, I think that was huge. I think that was the game.”
In addition to his record-breaking performance against the Cubs, Perez was on the receiving end of another from Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber.
Kluber’s eight strikeouts over the first three innings of Game 1 bested the previous record of Orlando Hernandez and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson, each of whom registered seven strikeouts over the first three innings of a World Series game.
Also, the eight Ks set the Indians’ franchise record for the most punch-outs in a World Series game.
“I think everybody, Kluber, the bullpen guys, Miller, Cody, they did an outstanding job, and hopefully, we can keep going,” Perez said.