Playing spoiler is something that nobody wants to be in position to do, but the Indians are in that spot. Over the first two games in this series against the Chicago White Sox, you can argue that the Indians have completely outplayed the team currently occupying first place in the AL Central. They have looked like quitters at times over the last two months, but something has gotten into them this week.
A few weeks back, the White Sox organization decided to move up the time of the game to 1:10 local in observance of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. It was quite a coincidence that they now have Kevin Youkilis on their team, who is Jewish. Youk had said that had it been a night game, he would not have played. In the end, the decision didn’t help as the Sox came out completely asleep.
Kluber is not exactly the second coming of Roger Clemens and for the most part, hasn’t really done much to impress in his 11 starts since taking a spot in the rotation. In fact, the Tribe lost nine of his first 10 starts.
However yesterday, the righty had the Sox completely baffled. Kluber had the longest outing of his short career, seven innings. Other than the two solo homers to A.J. Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo in the fifth, The Sox couldn’t touch the kid.
“I’ve seen him pitch like that a bunch of time this year in Columbus,” said Russ Canzler. “where he just kind of shuts teams down and uses all his pitches for strikes. It seemed like that’s what he was doing today.
Canzler’s solo homer in the second set up Kluber to pitch with a lead. A big hustle play on a double play ball by Thomas Neal added another run, which came in front of two-out RBI singles by Shin-Soo Choo and Ezequiel Carrera in the fourth.
After seven string innings where he allowed just four hits, Kluber gave way to Vinnie Pestano. You remember a day earlier, Vinnie gave up a big three-run homer to Adam Dunn which propelled Chicago to a 5-4 win. He would get another crack at Dunn in a similar spot.
Youkilis came through with a two-out single in the eighth which brought the Dunn/Pestano showdown back for round two. This time, Vinnie didn’t flinch and struck Dunn out.
Said closer Chris Perez regarding Pestano: “I know he had a really bad taste in his mouth last night. As a reliever, the good ones, that’s what you want, to come back the next day and get the same guys out. He did that.”
Rage ended up getting the Sox in the ninth, but it wasn’t without a high-wire act. Leading 4-2, All-time Tribe killer Paul Konerko took Perez’s first pitch over the wall in left field to bring the Sox to within one. In all of my years watching the Indians, I can’t think of a player who has worn out the Indians the way Konerko has. After recording two outs, Perez then walked pinch hitter Dan Johnson and Alexi Ramirez before getting Gordon Beckham to ground out.
The Tribe had the win and the Sox loss moved them into a first place tie with the Tigers, who won last night against the Royals. After the save, you could see in Perez’s face that he wasn’t all that excited. His media session in the locker room certainly didn’t dispute my theory.
Here is the back and forth courtesy of Paul Hoynes of the PD:
Reporter: How did it feel to play the spoiler today?
Perez: “I could care less. I’d rather be playing for something.”
Reporter: How have you managed to stay sharp between save opportunities?
Perez: “I’ve had a lot of practice this year.”
Reporter: Are you starting to think about next year and what you can build on?
Perez: “I’m not.”
Reporter: What’s been your routine because you wouldn’t expect to go six, seven or eight games between save opportunities?
Perez: “Have you watched us this year? We haven’t been in seven or eight games in a row.”
Reporter: What do you think the team has learned from this year?
Perez: “No comment. I have opinions, but I’m not going to say them right now.”
As Perez walked away from reporters, he said, “It will be a fun last couple of days of the season when I’m allowed to talk again.”
I’ve been a Perez supporter with all of the things that he has said this season. But at this point, does he need to continue this charade? Can he just let it go, keep his mouth shut and finish the season? I know he is trying to talk himself right out of town, but his mouth continues to lower his trade value. I mean, who doesn’t know that the Indians will be trying to peddle him this winter? It is a tired act. You made your point Chris, now go way.
(AP Photo/John Smierciak)