The Indians' Friday night loss to the Twins was a weird one to say the least. Corey Kluber went perfect through five frames before the entire defense (including Kluber himself) went headfirst into the Twilight Zone and wound up yielding two runs to the run-challenged Twinkies. Five innings later and the Tribe found themselves scratching their head over wasting another excellent Kluber outing. Bizarre inning aside, the strangest thing about the night was watching replacement catcher Roberto Perez channel his inner Kenny Lofton and make it from first to home with only a single hit-and-run moving him forward.
No one is going to mistake Perez for an outstanding base runner on any other night - the 5'11" 225 lb defensive-minded catcher is not likely to light up any stealing records any time soon. What he managed to do in the fifth inning of Friday's game, however, showed a tremendous amount of base running awareness that wound up manufacturing a run for the Tribe before their ultimate defeat late into the night.
Following Mike Pelfrey's near-nightmare fourth inning where he walked the bases loaded (but was let off the hook by cold Indian bats), Perez made his way on base by breaking a full count with a shot to the gap between short and third.
Perez's first bit of great base running brilliance comes during a well-choreographed hit-and-run between himself and Jose Ramirez in the next at bat. The simple mechanics of the hit-and-run are executed perfectly with Perez taking off and Ramirez keeping the ball on the ground once it got past Pelfrey. Perez also kept a keen eye on the ball making it out of the infield.
The Twins infield was out of line to defend against the hit, which darted on the ground past second base, giving Perez an extra second to pick up the fact that he could have time to make it to third. As previously stated, and as you are probably fully aware of watching him play over these past few games, Perez is not a speedster, but he more than made up for it with this little bit of base work as he slides into third ahead of a throw from the outfield.
Unless the Indians truly were in the Twilight Zone last night where the rules of baseball shift entirely, Perez still had to make it home to tack on that run. He did this on a wild pitch by Pelfrey, one that got away Twins' catcher Chris Hermann. It was a fairly-catchable pitch for Hermann, as I'm sure even he'd tell you, but it popped straight out of his glove, into the air, and somewhere in the mix he completely lost sight of it while it bounced a few feet behind him. For most base runners, the ball falling so close to the plate is usually a sign to stay at third - especially with no outs - but Perez took it as an opportunity to summon his inner Kenny and chug his way home and beat a half-hearted throw to the plate.
Rosenhaus in the booth seemed convinced that Perez had some kind of catchers eagle eye and could tell when Hermann lost the ball when it popped out of his glove. While being a fellow confused catcher may have helped him a bit, it's also safe to assume that it was just good baseball instincts on the part of Perez.
In the end, this excellent base running in the fifth didn't give the Tribe a win, and it will likely be quickly forgotten. But even in these heartbreaking losses, it's good to remember that little shining moments like this happen. Is Perez destined for base running greatness? Probably not. Should he remain the starter when Gomes returns? Absolutely not, but it was still fun to watch him do some great things for one glorious inning.