SEATTLE, WA: Closing pitcher Chris Perez #54 of the Cleveland Indians reacts after defeating the Seattle Mariners 9-8 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Chris Perez is a bit of a shaky closer for the Cleveland Indians, and don't the Cleveland Indians ever know it.
Chris Perez is the closer for the Cleveland Indians. He started being their closer in 2010, when he threw a mid-90s fastball and struck people out. He pitched like a classic closer, and he looked like a classic closer, so he made sense as closer. Chris Perez has remained the closer for the Cleveland Indians. Once you're a proven closer it's hard to become unproven again. And if you just glance, hey, Perez was an All-Star in 2011, how bad could he be?
More bad than you gather from the glance. Perez doesn't throw as hard as he used to, and either because of that or not, the strikeouts have gone away. Don't worry, Perez still walks guys like he used to, but he doesn't whiff guys like he used to. Since the start of 2011, he's posted the same strikeout rate as Bruce Chen and Jason Vargas. He's posted the same walk rate as Dontrelle Willis and Brian Matusz. Closer!
Perez is a shaky son of a bitch, who seems to do just enough to survive. At some point it'll all come crashing down, but he's one of them closers with a habit of making things interesting. Everybody thinks their favorite team's closer makes things interesting too often, but Chris Perez really makes things interesting too often. Every appearance, he's walking a tightrope and it's difficult to watch. For Indians fans, and for the Indians.
Tuesday night, Perez squeezed out another miracle against the Mariners. He inherited a 9-8 lead, and his final pitch was an elevated 2-and-0 fastball with the bases loaded. It was an adventure, and while we all know how the fans probably felt, I thought it'd be worthwhile to display how the Indians felt. I am a very perceptive person so everything I deduce below is true.
Here's Chris Perez about to start the inning. He looks like a man you would trust with no important job. The Indians pay him more than four million dollars.
Perez has retired the first batter of the inning. However, he has fallen behind the second batter of the inning. Manny Acta knows better than to make any assumptions, aside from the assumption that the next five minutes are going to make his stomach do cartwheels.
A batter is on base, against Chris Perez. Why, I never! Casey Kotchman braces for the storm. This is as expressive as Casey Kotchman ever gets. Casey Kotchman is like a deadpan comic who isn't funny.
Now the runner has been replaced with a faster runner. The new runner is prepared to do a lot of running. Kotchman doesn't want to get to know the new runner because he figures he'll be standing beside a different runner quite soon.
Jason Donald goes down after he can't handle a groundball. There are runners on the corners. Chris Perez is pitching and it's a one-run game. Jason Donald can't bear to watch the rest of what's going to happen. The Indians' team therapist rushes out of the dugout to convince Donald that it's just a game of arbitrary significance, and nothing matters except friends, family, and happiness.
A strike. Manny Acta cranes his neck just a little bit, no longer breathing. He is actively chewing -- what these screenshots don't show is that Acta's chewing gum -- but he's not drawing in any air. Manny Acta is going to hold his breath until Perez saves the game or Manny Acta dies.
The team therapist got Jason Donald to his feet. Donald remains on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.
Perez has recorded a second out. However, he's fallen behind a batter 2-and-0. This is very cold body language coming out of the Cleveland dugout. The man in the jacket is the man responsible for Perez being the team's closer in the first place. He is doing this to himself. Manny Acta hates himself, or Cleveland.
The bases are loaded. Perez walked the last guy on four pitches, even though he was a righty, and bad. No matter what happens, the first word out of Manny Acta's mouth when the inning is over will be "F***".
Manny Acta walks to the mound. He doesn't know what to say, but he has to say something, because you don't just walk to the mound and then turn around and walk back to the dugout. That's all Manny Acta really wants to do. He wants to walk to the mound, look at Chris Perez's face, turn around, walk back to the dugout, walk to the airport, and fly home.
Meanwhile Chris Perez is just having the time of his life and doesn't understand what everyone's so distressed about. Literally no one likes Chris Perez. The only person looking Chris Perez in the face is catcher Carlos Santana, and Santana is trying to kill Chris Perez with his mind.
Santana: brain aneurysm
The bases are loaded and Perez has fallen behind the hitter 2-and-0. Shelley Duncan is questioning every decision he has ever made, because every decision he had ever made had led him up to this point, with Chris Perez on the mound, pitching with the bases loaded and a 2-and-0 count in a one-run game.
The situation is the same and Shelley Duncan is openly weeping.
And here's the entire reason I wrote this post in the first place. Perez's 2-and-0 pitch gets the last batter out. Perez celebrates as if it were any other save, because for Chris Perez, it basically was any other save. Carlos Santana looks away, morose, resigned to his life of catching Chris Perez in the ninth inning of close games. Santana looks for a sign, any sign that things might change, a sign Santana can't even imagine. There is no sign. There is only Chris Perez, slapping Santana's baseball glove.