CLEVELAND — Veteran slugger Jason Giambi said he gave Chris Perez a hug after the beleaguered closer blew his fifth save Tuesday night in a 5-4 comeback win over the Chicago White Sox.
Perez could certainly use some tender loving care.
Cleveland’s fiery right-hander has been a lightning rod of controversy for the second straight season, but unlike his second consecutive All-Star season in 2012, Perez has been anything but reliable.
Perez, who has allowed a Major League-high seven home runs in save situations, entered Wednesday with a 5-3 record, 3.71 ERA and 25 saves in 53 appearances. He’s been especially bad as of late, posting a 5.95 ERA, with opponents batting .321 off him over his last 20 games through Tuesday.
“When he makes a mistake out over the plate, he’s gotten hit,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think sometimes you need that ball to be fouled off. It goes in cycles.”
Perez has failed in key moments this season but none bigger than on Tuesday night.
With the Indians clinging to a one-game lead in the American League’s wild-card race for the second playoff spot, Perez allowed two solo homers to the White Sox, who took the lead in the top of the ninth.
He was booed loudly as he left and was not on the field for the postgame celebration after Giambi’s walk-off homer.
“He was a little down,” Giambi said. “There’s not a worse feeling, I think, being in that situation. I’ve been up there striking out in a big situation, so I know the feeling.
“He’s going to be a huge part of us going down the stretch. I’m just glad he can wipe this away and start over (Wednesday).”
Though Perez has offered little relief as of late, Francona said he has no plans to turn to someone else to do the closing.
“If there’s ever a situation where I think we could do better, I would certainly do that, but you can’t just be reactionary as a manager or you’d have turmoil in the clubhouse,” he said. “I actually think the last month he’s thrown the ball pretty well. The consistency part hasn’t been quite what we hoped for. I think certainly we’re hoping for more on that side of it.”
Francona would not commit to holding back Ubaldo Jimenez to start should the Indians qualify for Wednesday’s AL wild-card game, before the right-hander’s next scheduled start in the regular-season finale at Minnesota on Sunday.
“We’re not there,” Francona said. “That’s the mentality we’ve had all along.”
The Indians finish the regular season in Minnesota, where they begin a four-game series at Target Field tonight at 8:10. Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.88 ERA) opens the set, opposing LHP Andrew Albers (2-4, 3.98), while Corey Kluber (10-5, 3.61) starts for Cleveland on Friday (8:10 p.m) against LHP Pedro Hernandez (3-2, 6.05). Scott Kazmir (9-4, 4.14) goes for the Indians on Saturday (1:05 p.m.) against RHP Cole De Vries (0-1, 11.70), while Jimenez (12-9, 3.38) is slated to pitch the series finale Sunday (2:10 p.m) against LHP Scott Diamond (6-12, 5.54). Cleveland is 9-6 against the Twins this year, which includes a 3-3 record at Target Field.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.