CLEVELAND — When Trevor Bauer, amid flowing champagne in Toronto last week, talked up catcher Roberto Perez as a “multiple-time All-Star” in the making, it was a good quote worth using to highlight an underappreciated player who gives a boost to an excellent pitching staff with his strong defensive work.Perez was still a guy who hit .183/.285/.294 in 184 plate appearances this season and went 4 for 23 with nine strikeouts through the first two rounds of the playoffs. And it’s not like he’s super young at 27. Multiple-time All-Star? Let it slide as hyperbole for a day, but know that it’s just something said in the exuberance of celebration. MORE: Perez joins list of unlikely World Series heroesOr is it? Perez is a World Series hero now, his two homers having accounted for four of Cleveland’s runs in Tuesday night’s 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1. He’s in astounding company; the only other catchers in World Series history to go deep twice in a game were Yogi Berra in 1956, Gene Tenace in 1972, Johnny Bench in 1976 and Gary Carter in 1986.“Oh,
I don’t think I’ve ever had a night like that,” Perez said. “It was huge. … I’ve come a long ways. I’m just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m not trying to do too much at the plate. I’m just trying to control my emotions. First World Series experience, and just trying to go out there and compete and try to get good ABs up there, and try to get on base and make something happen. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”The man with the best view in the park for Perez’s two homers — a solo shot off the railing over the left-field wall in the fourth inning, and a three-run blast deep into the bleachers in the eighth — was Rajai Davis, Cleveland’s leadoff man. He has had that view of Perez a lot, and isn’t convinced that his offensive numbers tell the full story.PLAYER RATINGS: Perez a perfect 10 “He got off to a pretty slow start offensively, and he missed spring training, so that was kind of tough,” Davis said. “You see him slowly getting into form, and his defense getting better, his throwing getting better, even his eye at the plate getting better. And he’s getting more aggressive as of late. So he’s been really swinging, looking to drive the ball, and that’s been paying off for him.”Indeed it has. Perez now has as many home runs in the playoffs as he did during the regular season: three. It’s not as though Perez has ever been a big-time power hitter; he hit 22 home runs in 523 career minor league games and has 11 in 160 games in the bigs. But you’d never know from seeing his swings against the Cubs that he was a bottom-of-the-order guy.MORE: Kluber sets Indians K record, could return in Game 4And maybe, seeing that he’s capable of something like this in the Fall Classic, the Midsummer Classic isn’t so far-fetched.“Us here, we know what he can do,” said Brandon Guyer, who was on second base when Perez hit his second homer. “The All-Star thing, I could certainly see it. The defense is unbelievable. I don’t know a catcher out there that’s better than him. Hitting, he’s had good at-bats and he hits the ball hard. During the season, his numbers might not have been there, but he’s been coming up huge for us.”Guyer has been with Cleveland only since the beginning of August, when he came over from Tampa Bay in a trade. Corey Kluber, who struck out a franchise World Series-record nine in his six-plus innings Tuesday, has been here for Perez’s entire career.“His confidence, I think that you can see it growing every series with him, with the team,” Kluber said. “I think that it’s all right here in confidence and just feeling good about himself. You can see the difference just in the way he feels about himself right now.”MORE: World Series in photosIt’s a feeling of confidence Perez already has when he’s behind the plate rather than at it, and that remains his primary source of value for Cleveland — on most nights, anyway.“It’s almost like he knew what they were looking for,” Kluber said after lowering his playoff ERA to 0.74. “He had them off balance for the majority of the night. Really, the only time that they got hits was really when I didn’t execute a pitch. If I did what he asked me to, then it worked pretty well. But that’s how it always is."