CLEVELAND -- Closer Chris Perez loved seeing Cleveland's offense break through for three runs in the ninth inning against Texas on Thursday night. He was especially happy that the dramatic rally came with no outs.
"I had time to get ready," Perez said with a laugh on Friday morning.
Save opportunities -- especially those like the one that rapidly presented itself in Thursday's 5-4 victory -- have been few and far between over the past two months. That's the nature of the beast for a closer employed by a ballclub mired in a long losing streak.
Needless to say, Perez enjoyed slamming the door on Thursday.
"It felt like a fun game," he said. "That's what we did last year a lot, those kind of wins. It's been a while since we felt like that."
Over the past 45 games, during which Cleveland has a 10-35 record, Perez has logged 13 1/3 innings over 15 appearances that included only nine save chances. Compare that with the team's first 99 games, when the two-time All-Star worked in 40 games (38 1/3 innings) and had 31 save opportunities.
To put it another way, Perez went from having a save opportunity roughly once every three games over the season's first three months to averaging one every five over the past two months.
"The closing role, it comes fast and furious, and then it's barren, and then fast and furious, and then barren again," he said. "It's an ebb and flow. This year it's been a little easier. I don't know why. I really haven't lost anything with the days off."
Perez knows that the volume of save opportunities he receives is out of his control. And with three weeks left in the season, he said that he and his teammates need to focus on the things that are under their control.
"Everybody knows what they're playing for, hopefully," he said. "There's probably only a handful of guys who should feel comfortable in this room with where they stand going into next year. Unfortunately, when teams underperform or you don't meet expectations, they tend to want to change stuff. Teams that win or make the playoffs, they don't get overhauled, because obviously, they were successful.
"So these next three weeks are big for guys to show what they can do here. They might just say, 'It's only three weeks,' but it's a big three weeks. What else do they have to go by? This is big league competition. You can only get by so much with what you did in the Minors. Eventually, you have to step up here."
Santana demonstrating newfound consistency
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are finally seeing consistency at the plate from catcher Carlos Santana. Following a rough first half, Santana has provided a silver lining for Cleveland's troubles over the past two months.
Manager Manny Acta said that Santana's recent success is the result of carrying his work behind the scenes to the games. Santana has spent much of the past two years tweaking his mechanics, trying to find the form currently on display.
"It's been his ability to use the middle of the field," Acta said. "That's been the biggest issue. His biggest problem is still becoming too pull-conscious, but he's making more of a conscious effort to stay up the middle, and that helps him out with staying inside the ball."
Acta added that the switch-hitter has done this batting both left- and right-handed.
"Both sides of the plate," he said. "He gets in trouble when he's just spinning off and pulling everything. We have showed that to him in every way possible, and he's making a conscious effort to do it."
Entering Friday's game against Detroit, Santana was hitting .285 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 58 games since the All-Star break. In the second half, he has led the Indians in those three categories, as well as on-base percentage (.381), slugging percentage (.500), OPS (.881), doubles (13), extra-base hits (23), runs (29), walks (30), hits (57) and total bases (100).
Santana hit just .221 with five home runs, 13 doubles and 30 RBIs in 69 games in the first half. During that stretch, he posted a .339 OBP, .336 SLG and .675 OPS.
Asdrubal, Brantley could return this weekend
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are hopeful that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and center fielder Michael Brantley will be recovered from their respective injuries and back in the lineup by the end of the weekend.
Both Cabrera and Brantley were absent from the lineup for Friday's game against the Tigers. It's the fifth consecutive game missed by Cabrera, who has a sprained right wrist, and the second straight game Brantley has sat out with a strained left pectoral muscle.
Jason Donald manned shortstop and Ezequiel Carrera served as the center fielder on Friday.
Manager Manny Acta noted that Cabrera, who has been bothered off and on by the wrist all month, was available off the bench for defense or to hit right-handed. Cabrera's right hand is not healed enough for him to hit from the left side.
"Asdrubal is doing better," Acta said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to have him by the end of this weekend."
Through 129 games this season, Cabrera has hit .267 with 14 home runs, 31 doubles and 56 RBIs.
Brantley injured his chest while swinging in the batting cage prior to Thursday's game against the Rangers. Acta indicated that Brantley would not be available off the bench.
"Brantley is much improved," Acta said. "Same way: I'm shooting that by the end of the weekend, especially toward Sunday."
Brantley has hit .284 with six homers, 36 doubles and 58 RBIs in 138 games this season.
Flag flies at half-staff at Progressive Field
CLEVELAND -- The flag that flies behind the center-field wall at Progressive Field, and every flag in every stadium, was lowered to half-staff on Friday in recognition of the Americans slain in Libya.
President Barack Obama ordered all flags on government buildings be lowered. The order applied to all U.S. military posts, diplomatic sites abroad and ships at sea. Commissioner Bud Selig requested that all clubs support the President's request through sunset on Sunday.
"This is America's pastime," reliever Frank Herrmann said. "Every time we go out there, people are watching. It's good to acknowledge that, because I don't think a lot of people take time out of their day to realize what's going on across the world.
"If it's within the context of baseball that people have to take a second to stop and say, 'Why is the flag at half-staff?' then so be it."
On Tuesday, U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, was among four killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi by armed Islamists.
Quote to note
"It's still very important, and it's important for the integrity. We're playing teams that are in the race still -- the White Sox and Tigers. That's how baseball should be. You should give your best effort every time, and the best team should win. You shouldn't roll over."
-- Chris Perez, on the final three weeks of the season
Shortstop Jason Donald sustained a contusion in his right wrist after being hit by a pitch from Detroit's Justin Verlander in the seventh inning of Friday's game, a 4-0 loss. Donald exited the game; results of X-rays are pending.
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery) was scheduled to throw two innings for Double-A Akron in Game 3 of the Eastern League championship against Trenton on Friday. Akron entered the game with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Indians' 5-4 victory over the Rangers upped their record in one-run games to 20-9 (.690 winning percentage). That's the second best in the Majors, behind the Orioles (27-7, .794).
Designated hitter Travis Hafner (back) was scheduled to taking batting practice on the field prior to Friday's game, but inclement weather forced him to retreat to the indoor cage. The Indians remain optimistic that Hafner will play again this season.
Left-hander David Huff, who is scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Twins, will likely be limited to around 75 or 80 pitches. Huff is moving to the rotation after making a pair of relief appearances this month.