If not for the poor play of Chris Perez down the stretch, the Cleveland Indians would likely have clinched a playoff berth already. Perez was lights out as the team’s closer in the month of July, recording eight saves and posting 0.60 ERA. Since then, the right-hander has been incredibly shaky.
Perez has blown three saves since August 5. He nearly blew a 6-1 lead against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday and almost cost his team a crucial victory. His 9.64 ERA in the month of September has caused his overall ERA to balloon to 4.33. As a result, the Indians are now without a closer. On Friday, Cleveland manager Terry Francona announced the Perez has been removed from the closer’s role for the foreseeable future.
Obviously, this is not an ideal time to be without a closer. Francona said he will use a closer-by-committee approach going forward with Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw or Justin Masterson all potentially pitching the ninth inning in certain situations.
The Indians and Tampa Bay Rays are both currently one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the American League’s two wild card spots with two games remaining in the season. Closing games requires a certain mentality — especially in the playoffs. Cleveland’s lack of a closer will be something to watch as they fight for a playoff spot. Should they reach the postseason, plenty of people will be wondering if Perez’s late-season implosion could eventually prove costly.