Perez, Bullpen Working Well in Six-Game Streak

By: T.J. Zuppe

The Cleveland Indians topped the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night by a final score of 4-3. More impressively, the win brought the Indians’ win streak to a season-high six games after reliever Chris Perez shut down the Twins in order in the ninth inning for his ninth save.

Indians Reliever Chris Perez

Throughout the six-game streak for the Tribe, several factors have contributed, however much of the success the team has tasted after roaring out of the all-star break at 6-0, can be attributed to the pitching staff.

As the season has progressed, certain roles have been more and more defined, while others have been up in the air, due to injury or ineffectiveness. The latest injury in the pen put pitcher Kerry Wood on the shelf with a blister, and reinserted right-hander Chris Perez as the teams closer for the foreseeable future.

Yet even through the mess, Perez has made things crystal clear at the back-end of the pen. He is shutting the door on the opposition, and lately, on a lot more wins.

In the six-game win streak the Tribe is currently on, Perez has worked in three games, picking up two saves and only giving up one hit in three innings of relief. He has struck out three, walking one, not surrendering a run.

However, the latest lights-out streak for Perez extends far beyond his last three appearances. Perez has not given up a run since June 27th in Cincinnati. Since then, Perez has totaled 8.1 scoreless innings of relief, surrendering two hits and striking out eight.

He has lowered his earned run average from 3.10 to 2.41 over that time.

After the game, Perez gave much credit to the pen’s success to the starting rotation, for putting the relievers in a good position to enter the game, and giving manager Manny Acta more opportunity to match-up in later innings.

He also addressed many thanks to former major league pitcher, and current Indians bullpen coach Scott Radinsky for keeping them on their toes, and mentally prepared for late work as the game is winding down to conclusion.

It is becoming abundantly clear just how much Perez means to the pen, not only in the middle of the diamond, but as a voice and leader of the group. A closer is supposed to be the last line of defense, and from his stability and leadership, it allows the other roles to trickle down in a solid defined manner.

The effort he puts forth on the mound late in ballgames and the image he is beginning to portray has helped steady the ship and the numbers are starting to show.

In the Tribe’s current win streak, Perez and the rest of the Indians’ bullpen has worked in 20 innings of relief, only giving up three runs. Combined with the excellent starting performances, the Indians have worked a team effort to lower their overall ERA to 4.46.

This can be looked at as continued proof that when you pitch well, good things will happen, and winning seems to become contagious. For one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, the Indians can hope for nothing more than this continued success in the near-future, especially with the high-paid Wood on the shelf.

In the absence of Wood, the Indians brass has to be absolutely tickled by the response of Perez, the guy they had envisioned as the closer in waiting. He has done almost everything the team could have asked for, picking up nine saves in 12 chances, making Wood expendable at, or slightly after the trade deadline of July 31st.

Even if Wood does return without trade, how can the team consider moving Perez out of the role he has grasped firmly and is not ready to let go of? The team acquired him to be the closer of the future, and this season has snowballed into a theme of “the future is now”.

Perez has found his nitch. He is awkwardly intimidating, has a bit of “rockstar swagger”, is always honest, sometimes to a fault and possibly the closest this team has had to a real-life Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn.

Now it is up to the Indians to make sure he is here to stay as the closer for the Tribe.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

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