Nine Innings: On The start of the Tigers series

1) It’s really amazing how low Chris Perez’s stature has dropped in the eyes of Cleveland fandom. Perez is arguably one of the best closers in team history, but when he makes a mistake and blows a game fans are ready to pounce on him like a cobra attacks its prey. Perez brings a good part of it on himself, of course, but it’s rare he is congratulated or cheered when he succeeds — and the outcry when he fails is far greater than any ripple of approval when he does well. Perez’s blown save against Detroit on Monday was brutal. It hurt. It was maddening. But it doesn’t change the other reality, that leading up to Monday Perez had pitched 19 innings since coming off the disabled list and given up just two earned runs, an ERA of 0.95. He stunk Monday night, and he admitted as much to manager Terry Francona. But he had 11 saves in a row. That doesn’t seem to matter when Perez falters.

2) Yes, Perez has himself to thank for this, in large part. He’s called out the fans, called out the management, called out the former manager and now he’s calling out the media — in a roundabout way. He decided to stop talking with the local press after he had drugs sent to his dog, apparently because he thought he was being treated unfairly. There were some tense moments since, but all in all he’s just decided he’s not talking to the media. So in a sense, his not talking after his blown save was at least consistent. But the problem is it left his teammates there to address questions he should have addressed. Which didn’t seem to go over well.

3) In a sense, Perez is being the anti-Omar. Because when Omar Vizquel was in Cleveland for his bobblehead weekend he said he felt it was his responsibility to address questions, especially when he failed. Vizquel said he actually likes to read what people say when they fail because it shows something about their character. “One of the things that I remember,” Vizquel said, “is that when guys didn’t have good games, the first thing they did was say, ‘Hey I have 15 minutes until the press gets here. I have to take a shower quick and leave.’ And you guys didn’t get your news. But in a professional way, I like reading about when people fall, when people have the adversity.” By not speaking Monday, Perez made things harder on himself. And made himself a bigger story.  Perez made a habit in past years of standing up and taking accountability, win or lose. Doing that Monday would have deflected some of the negative attention he received.

4) Of course a loss like that brings up how a closer is used. It’s the way baseball has evolved. A team depends on a guy in the ninth, and to start the ninth. Closers like to enter a game at the start of an inning. They’re paid to get through that inning. And they’re paid handsomely. Perez this season is making $7.3 million to close games. Perez has been an All-Star. He’s pitched well. Managers are going to let them start the inning, and they’re not going to take them out until the game is tied or the team is behind. They’re not going to start juggling guys in the ninth.  “That’s why you have closers,” manager Terry Francona said. “You’re going to create chaos down there (in the bullpen) if you start doing that.”

5) The question was even posed to Francona that with Prince Fielder leading off the ninth perhaps Rich Hill could start the inning and the Indians would have lefty against lefty. Fielder said he understood the thinking, but he also said Perez has been tough on him. Prior to Monday, Fielder had been 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Perez. Alex Avila hit the game-winning three run home run off Perez, but prior to that at-bat he was 1-for-5 of Perez. Had Francona seen Perez struggling, he could have brought Hill in to face Avila, but then Jim Leyland would have pinch-hit Matt Tuiasosopo, and that matchup would not have favored the Indians. Too, Avila is hitting in the .190s, but since he came off the disabled list on July 2 he’s hitting .478 with runners in scoring position. Francona could have left Corey Kluber in to finish the game, but we now know he had injured his finger, and if he loses in the ninth folks would say Francona should have gotten Perez. Had Francona gone to Cody Allen and lost, folks would ask why not Perez. It’s a byproduct of a bad loss. Perez is the closer, and Avila beat him. Pure and simple. “The last 12 outings he had 12 saves in a row (actually 11 in 11) and now all of a sudden I’m getting asked about matching up in the ninth,” Francona said. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think you need to maybe sometimes take a step back. He blew a save. Unfortunately it hurts. But that’s part of the game.”

6) As for Perez pitching three games in a row, it’s a non-issue. Perez has saved three games in a row four times in his career, three times in 2012, once against the Tigers after his frustration tirade about attendance. Perez pitched four days in a row earlier this month, and gave up no runs. A  year ago, he pitched three days in a row three times, and never gave up a run. Not having it sometimes means just that. Perez didn’t have it Monday night.

7) If it seems like ex-Indian Victor Martinez is putting a big hurting on the team he grew up with, well, it’s because he is. Martinez is hitting .395 with a home run. eight RBI and eight walks against Cleveland. In other statistical news, the Indians Nick Swisher has two RBI in his last 22 games.

8) Scott Kazmir’s turnaround has been remarkable. A guy who was with the Sugarland Skeeters a year ago is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last nine starts. You hate to ask a guy if he’s surprised by his success, because it implies he didn’t expect to be good. But Kazmir even admitted things have come together a little more quickly than he envisioned. “It feels like a surprise, but at the same time it really wasn’t,” he said. “As soon as I got released from the Angels, I knew that once it clicked — I didn’t know when it would — but once it did everything was going to kind of fall into place. I guess that’s why maybe it made that big jump.” Kazmir is on a one-year contract, and surely is in line to sign a longer-term deal, but he wants to think about the future after the season. He did, though, say that because the Indians gave him a chance to revive his career the team would get extra consideration when it comes to signing a deal — assuming they want him. “That goes a long way, that’s for sure,” Kazmir said. “Then being here the whole year seeing what we have, and the type of chemistry and feel it has, it definitely goes a long way.”

9) Michael Bourn said this on the Indians attitude as they play Detroit: “There’s nothing to be scared of. It’s not like we’re going to jail.” That was before the first two games were played, of course.