Perez's hustle indicative of Tribe's aggressiveness

Perez's hustle indicative of Tribe's aggressiveness

CLEVELAND -- A small play can turn into a big moment, especially on the October stage. That is the way the Indians felt about what catcher Roberto Perez pulled off in the fifth inning of Thursday's 5-4 win over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

After leading off with a single, Perez tagged up at first on a fly ball to deep left from Carlos Santana. Perez then hustled to second base, beating the throw from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi. That helped set up the game's decisive run, as Jason Kipnis followed with an RBI single that scored Cleveland's fifth and final run.

"That was a really good play," manager Terry Francona said on Friday before Game 2. "You probably couldn't tell, but it brought so much energy in the dugout when it happened. Everybody kind of jumped up. In my opinion, that was a big play."

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CLE 5, BOS 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 7 CLE 6, BOS 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 CLE 4, BOS 3 video

Perez's hustle to second put the Indians' baserunning prowess on display. During the regular season, Cleveland ranked first in the AL with 186 bases taken (on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, balks and defensive indifference). The Indians also led the league in stolen bases, but Francona often points out that the team's running ability goes well beyond steals.

"You don't always score," Francona said. "But you give yourself a chance."

Francona added that Perez's approach on the play was perfect. Rather than going halfway between first and second base, the catcher stayed back at first, while watching the play unfold in front of him. That helped put Perez in position to take the base and set up the run.

"I think it's kind of changed over the years," Francona said. "You're always taught, 'Hey, get out there, get out there in case he misses it.' Well, a guy misses a fly ball about once a year. Your chances of moving up are more by tagging. ... You've got to kind of be alert. It's got to be the right time. He did a good job."

Worth noting

• During the ninth inning of Thursday's game, Francona sent utility man Michael Martinez to center field as a defensive replacement. That could be something Cleveland does throughout the postseason, as the manager feels Martinez plays a solid center and performs well defensively as a late-game option.

"I think that's his best position," Francona said. "It's funny, because a lot of times I get hesitant to put a guy in defensively, just because he's not in the flow of the game. And I think, for whatever reason, Michael's best defense is when he goes in in short spurts. He's so in tune to it and he's right on it."

• Francona started right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall in Game 2 against the left-handed David Price, even through Chisenhall typically only plays against righties. Francona said he wanted to give ace Corey Kluber a better defense behind him and noted that Chisenhall (.364 average in 11 at-bats against Price) has had success against the Boston pitcher.

• Francona said he likes to have one of Rajai Davis or Coco Crisp on his bench to start a game. In Davis, the manager has a fleet-footed outfielder capable of hitting lefties well, stealing a base in a pinch and handling left or center. Crisp also offers some speed, can hit from both sides and was one of the league's top hitters with runners in scoring position this year.

• During the pregame introductions for Game 1 on Thursday, Francona shook hands with his close friend, Red Sox manager John Farrell, at home plate. Francona, who used to manage Boston, then threw his gum at Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Joked Francona: "Thank God he caught that, because that would've hit Hanley Ramirez right in the face. I don't know Hanley that well."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.