Everybody who thought Roberto Perez would be the hero of Game 1 of the ALDS, raise your hand. No? Me either. He’s great defensively, but you don’t expect a catcher who batted .183 (with a .285 OBP) during the regular season to bring it offensively. But weird stuff goes down in Cleveland, man. Some of the biggest plays were made by some unlikely players, there were two over-turned calls, an impromptu home run derby in the 3rd inning, and a final out that will keep Dustin Pedroia up at night for the next six years.
The Tribe caught a huge break in the 1st inning. With Pedroia on 3rd and Brock Holt on 1st, Hanley Ramirez hit a deep double that scored Pedroia and, it appeared, Holt. Tyler Naquin fielded the ball cleanly, hit cut-off man Francisco Lindor, who threw a strike to Roberto Perez. The initial ruling was that Holt beat the tag. Upon review, Holt was ruled out. First inning or not, you just had a feeling that run was going to be important. It wouldn’t be the last time that Perez made a play that would keep the Indians in the game. Boston had the early lead, but fortunately the score was only 1-0 instead of 2-0. I was hoping the Indians would answer right back in their half of the 1st. Instead Santana was hit by a pitch, then Kipnis, Lindor, and Napoli each went up against 22-game winner Rick Porcello and Kipnis, Lindor, and Napoli each struck out.
Porcello looked positively scary in that 1st inning. Bauer found his stride in the 2nd, getting the Red Sox out 1-2-3 with a strikeout, but he wasn’t Porcello. I admit to a feeling of trepidation when the Indians came to bat in the 2nd. Would he mow them down again? I needn’t have worried, not with Yes Way, Jose at bat. Jose Ramirez sauntered up to the plate, ran Porcello to a full count, and smacked a double. Just like that, Porcello was human and hittable. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to score Ramirez but was thrown out at second on another reviewed and reversed play. Cleveland took the out but still had the run scored.
In the 3rd, Boston rookie and #9 hitter Andrew Benintendi smacked a solo home run in his first post-season at bat. Not to be outdone, our #9 hitter, post-season first-timer, and and owner of three regular season home runs Roberto Perez led off the Indians’ half of the 3rd with a solo home run of his own to tie things up 2-2. Thus began the home run derby. Jason Kipnis cracked a solo dinger, followed by Francisco Lindor. Just for perspective: Porcello had never given up three home runs in an inning in his career, and hadn’t given up more than three runs in a game since July.
Boston scored again in the 5th on a solo shot by Sandy Leon, making the score 4-3 and making Indians fans everywhere feel like they might need another drink. Once again, Perez led off the Indians’ half of the inning. No home run this time, just a sharp line drive to left for a single. Carlos Santana followed with a deep fly ball to left that was caught by Benintendi. It wasn’t your typical sacrifice fly, and Benintendi didn’t play as such. Perez tagged up and slid into second on his knees like a kid on a slip-and-slide. It wasn’t pretty, but he was safe.
Perez then scored on a single by Jason Kipnis. His heads up base running brought home what would turn out to be the winning run. Boston scored once more on a solo home run by Brock Holt, who reminds me of Matt Damon trying to rock a Morrissey pompadour. His homer made this the second-ever postseason game to feature six home runs (tying the 2015 Chicago Cubs, who hit six in a Game 3 win over the Cardinals).
In the end, the Indians didn’t have any problem hitting or scoring off of Porcello. Former Indian Drew Pomeranz, however, stymied them for 2.1 innings, allowing three hits but allowing no runs and striking out five. I hope the next time the Tribe faces him in this series, they figure him out.
The Indians used four pitchers, most notably Andrew Miller, who came in to relieve starter Trevor Bauer with two outs in the 5th inning. There is already discussion online about whether bringing in Miller that early is 1) the opening salvo in a revolution in the way we think about and use bullpens, 2) a save situation in the 5th inning, 3) an attempt to play head games with opposing teams by making them over-think their next move, or 4) just a brilliant managerial decision by Terry Francona to get the job done when it needed to be done. I tend to go with option 4.
Bauer had a respectable start. In typical Bauer fashion, it took him a couple batters to find his stride. Francona took him out at the right time. Bauer, Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen combined for 14 total strikeouts (compared to a total of 12 from Boston’s pitchers). With a run-producing team like the Red Sox, you can’t take a one-run lead for granted. I was pacing the living room until the final strike. On what would be the last pitch of the game, Allen threw a full count knuckle curve that Pedroia swung on and missed. Pedroia argued that he didn’t go all the way around.
But he did.