Who is this guy, and what did he do with the 25-year-old rookie who strung together a 1.78 ERA in 44 regular-season appearances?
"He's been in some tough situations," manager Eric Wedge said of Perez. "He hasn't had as many opportunities, as well, just in regard to the lineups."
The Red Sox do have quite the balanced lineup, but the righty-lefty matchups never played too much of a factor in Wedge's use of Perez during the regular season. In fact, right-handers had more plate appearances (144) against Perez than left-handers (92). He limited right-handers to a .213 average (29-for-136), while holding fellow lefties to a .145 mark (12-for-83).
Wedge might be a little bit trigger-shy about using Perez in key situations, given what's unfolded in recent days.
In Game 2, Perez inherited a 4-3 Tribe lead and a runner left behind by Fausto Carmona. He gave up back-to-back homers to right-handers Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell and a single to the left-handed-hitting J.D. Drew before getting yanked.
In Game 5 on Thursday night, Perez was given a fresh eighth inning to work with, as the Indians were trailing, 4-1. He walked Drew and got Jason Varitek to fly out, but his throwing error on a fielder's choice hit by Coco Crisp left two runners on. Julio Lugo singled on a bunt, and Perez was pulled for Tom Mastny, who let all three inherited runners score, inflating Perez's ERA.
"I felt like [Perez] was a little bit better [Thursday]," Wedge said. "I felt like he was a little more aggressive with his stuff."
Wedge still expects Perez to return to his role as one of the four prominent men in the 'pen this postseason.
"You don't want to force-feed anything," Wedge said, "but I think he's still going to come into play here before it's all said and done."
The Hafner shift:
Opposing teams have pulled an infield shift on Travis Hafner all season. But on Friday, Wedge was asked about a different sort of Hafner shift -- a shift in his position in the lineup.
The man known as Pronk has been punchless in the last three games of the ALCS. He is 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts since his single in the ninth inning of Game 2. He hasn't hit one ball out of the infield in that span, either.
Yet Hafner will remain in his usual No. 3 spot of the lineup for Game 6, Wedge said.
"We wouldn't tinker with that," Wedge said. "Haf has had a couple of tough games. I've got a lot of confidence in him. I think what we need him to do is just to simplify things a bit. Everybody has to remember, when it comes to the postseason, everything prior to today doesn't mean anything. There's only one thing that matters, and that's [Saturday] night's game. And Travis Hafner can come out there and impact that game like any other great hitter in Major League Baseball."
Did you know?
The Indians' loss in Game 5 might have been a bummer, but maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise. The Tribe, after all, has never clinched an AL pennant at home. The 1920 and 1954 clinchers came in Detroit, the 1948 clinch was in Boston, in '95 it was in Seattle and in '97 it was in Baltimore.
The stats might indicate a tired arm. But the radar gun readings most certainly do not.
If anything, C.C. Sabathia, who has logged 256 1/3 innings between the regular season and playoffs this year, was throwing harder on Thursday night than ever, routinely hitting the upper 90s with his fastball.
Pitching coach Carl Willis saw improvement from Sabathia, who is 1-2 with an 8.80 ERA in three October starts, in the Game 5 loss.
"I thought he stayed in his delivery much better than those previous two outings," Willis said. "Pitchers go through certain periods, and when you go through a down period and it happens in the postseason, you open yourself up to a lot of criticism or questions. If this had been happening in June, probably not as much attention is given toward it."
The annual Bill James Handbook
, which will be released on Nov. 1, will have a new section called "Young Talent Inventory."
In it, James ranks Fausto Carmona (No. 3), Grady Sizemore (No. 9) and C.C. Sabathia (No. 21) in his list of the top 25 Major Leaguers under the age of 30. That's the most players from any one team.
James, an influential baseball historian and statistician, also claims the Tribe has the fifth-best young talent overall in the bigs. Only the World Series-bound Rockies, Devil Rays, Diamondbacks and Marlins are ranked higher.
Party it up:
The Indians didn't capitalize on their opportunity to clinch the AL pennant at home. But if the Tribe is able to accomplish its mission this weekend at Fenway Park, it will feel like home at Jacobs Field.
The Indians will continue to hold their "Tribe Pride Parties" at The Jake for Saturday's Game 6 and Sunday's Game 7, if necessary. Fans can watch the games on the jumbotron, and concessions will be open for business.
Free tickets in the lower bowl sections are available by visiting Indians.com
or any Indians Team Shop. For those looking to take in the games from the comfort of the club seats while enjoying unlimited food and non-alcoholic drinks, those tickets are once again available for $25.
The phrase "Game 6" became something akin to a dirty word in these parts in 1986. The Indians hope to make it that way again with Saturday's 8:23 p.m. ET game at Fenway. Right-hander Fausto Carmona (0-0, 3.46 ERA in postseason) will oppose right-hander Curt Schilling (1-0, 3.86 ERA).