CLEVELAND (AP) " Once he rounded the bases after his second home run, propelled by a roaring crowd at Progressive Field, Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez began to understand what he had done.
"I don't think I've ever had a night like that," Perez said.
Known almost exclusively for his defense, Perez provided plenty of pop in Game 1 of the World Series, hitting a pair of homers " a solo shot and a three-run drive " as the Indians rolled to a 6-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.
The Indians love Perez's skills behind the plate, his catching, his capacity to throw out attempte base stealers, and his ability to frame pitches for the guy on the mound. Anything they get from him at bat is a bonus.
In his debut on baseball's biggest stage, Perez became the first Indians hitter with a multihomer game in a World Series. He tied the franchise record for RBIs and joined Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome as the only Cleveland players to hit two homers in a postseason game.
Not bad for a backup catcher who had a meager .183 batting average during the regular season.
"I've come a long ways. I'm just playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Perez, who also homered in his first at-bat of the playoffs. "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."
Perez, who had thumb surgery this season, has three homers in 27 postseason at-bats " equaling his number of long shots in 153 at-bats during the regular season.
He homered his first time up in the American League Division Series against Boston and on Tuesday became the first No. 9 batter to hit two homers in a World Series game.
"I watch how hard he works day in and day out," said shortstop Francisco Lindor, who had three hits. "He's doing it for his family. He's doing it for Puerto Rico. It's awesome to see him stepping up."
Perez gave the Indians a 3-0 lead in the fourth with his homer off Cubs ace Jon Lester. The left-hander attempted to sneak a fastball past Perez, who lined it over the 19-foot wall in left field, his shot pinging off a railing.
With the Indians up 3-0 and two outs in the eighth, Perez drove a pitch from Hector Rondon into the bleachers in left, effectively ending the contest, sending Indians fans into a frenzy and moving Cleveland a step closer to its first title since 1948.
Beyond his unexpected offensive production, Perez has been excellent behind the plate in handling Cleveland's pitchers, who have complimented the way he calls a game.
"He should be a star catcher, that's the way he's heading," reliever Andrew Miller said. "He doesn't even have to get a hit to validate his spot behind the plate."
For much of the season, Perez didn't come close to hitting his ideal playing weight (100 kilograms or 220 pounds), and there was a long period when he was almost an automatic out. But when starting catcher Yan Gomes went down with a separated shoulder in July and then a broken wrist in September, Perez stepped in and the Indians haven't missed a beat.
"What he did at the plate tonight, my goodness, that was exciting to watch," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Everybody was happy for him. You could see the way everybody reacted to it."
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings