Cubs

Indians' Roberto Perez continues to 'make a name' with two homers in Game 1 win over Cubs

Indians' Roberto Perez continues to 'make a name' with two homers in Game 1 win over Cubs

CLEVELAND -- He was granted a huge opportunity this season and Roberto Perez has capitalized on it, especially in October.

Perez on Tuesday night became the first Cleveland Indians player to homer twice in a World Series contest as he belted a pair in a 6-0 Game 1 victory over the Cubs in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field. Perez homered off Jon Lester and Hector Rondon, the latter putting the finishing touches on an impressive all-around Indians performance. He also became only the fifth catcher in major league history to homer twice in a World Series game.

“I told him every time, ‘You want to make a name? This is where you do it.’ ” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “And he’s stepping up huge. I told him -- ‘I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you.’

“I almost cried when he hit the home run.”

An excellent pitch framer who threw out 13 of 26 stolen-base attempts in the regular season, Perez’s overall offensive production in 2016 wasn’t very impressive. He finished the regular season hitting .183 with three homers -- a figure he has already matched in the postseason (he also homered against Boston in the American League Division Series).

But most of Perez’s struggles came after he returned early from a broken right thumb out of necessity. When Yan Gomes was placed on the disabled list on July 17 with a separated right shoulder, Perez was only 24 plate appearances into his rehab assignment.

His performance showed as he produced a .367 OPS in his first 75 plate appearances back. But down the stretch, Perez’s bat perked up and he had a .763 OPS in his final 94 plate appearances.

“His numbers are a little misleading,” reliever Andrew Miller said. “He had to be there behind the plate for us and maybe wasn’t ready at the plate. It’s not easy to do that.

“He certainly swung the bat pretty well down the stretch -- he had good at-bats, he works the count and he showed today he can do damage.”

Perez’s first homer came at a critical point as the Indians let a chance slip away an inning earlier to extend their two-run lead. With one out in the fourth, Perez turned around a 92-mph fastball from Lester, hammering it just over the top of the 19-foot high wall in left field for a solo homer. The ball exited Perez’s bat at 113 mph, according to MLB.com.

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The second drive arrived in the eighth inning and put the game out of reach. With Cleveland ahead 3-0, Perez took advantage of a two-out rally and caught hold of a hanging 2-2 slider from Rondon, who had just entered the game, driving it 382 feet for a three-run shot.

“What he did at the plate tonight, my goodness, that was exciting to watch,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It gave us a cushion early. And then late, come spread it out. In the seventh or eighth, that wasn’t looking like a 6-0 game. So it’s nice any time. Everybody was happy for him. You could see the way everybody reacted.”

With his second homer, Perez joined elite catching company --- Yogi Berra, Gene Tenace, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter are the only other backstops to homer twice in a World Series game. His four RBIs matched the previous club record set by Sandy Alomar Jr. (Game 5, 1997) and Elmer Smith (Game 5, 1920). He also is the only player in World Series history to homer twice out of the ninth spot in the order in the same game.

Not bad when you consider Perez has caught all 80 postseason innings for a pitching staff that has a produced a 1.58 ERA through its first nine games and is three victories shy of a World Series title.

“I’m just playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Perez said. “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.”

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

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USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

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Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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