7/28/2013 1:32 P.M. ET
Day after faltering, Smith comes through for Tribe
By Jordan Bastian and Mark Emery / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Joe Smith sought out Indians manager Terry Francona Saturday afternoon and had a request. If possible, the setup man wanted to get into that night's game against Texas to try to shake off his recent struggles.
"Smitty actually came into my office," Francona said. "He goes, 'Please let me pitch.'"
Francona found a spot for Smith in the eighth inning, when the Rangers had a runner on first base with two outs and Cleveland was clinging to a 1-0 lead. Starter Justin Masterson had reached 113 pitches in a strong effort, but right-handed slugger Adrian Beltre was looming in the batter's box.
With the hitters due up after Beltre, and the available hitters on Texas' bench, Francona felt it was an opportune time to hand the ball to Smith.
"I just thought, you know what? [Masterson's] done such a good job," Francona said. "Let Smitty come in and get the righty and get out of there."
Smith had his trepidations, but only in light of how Masterson was dealing.
"I wanted to get in there," said Smith, who had posted a 7.59 ERA across his previous 13 appearances. "But Masty was throwing the ball so well. It was one of those games where you almost don't want to get in there. You just want to see him do his thing."
In Friday's 11-8 win in 11 innings, Smith entered in the eighth and gave up two runs to allow Texas to pull the game into an 8-8 deadlock. One night later, it took Smith three pitches to get Beltre to fly out to the warning track in left field to end the eighth.
"It was nice," Smith said. "It was nice to find out that the bat isn't made of all barrel, that it has some end on it."
Asked if it was a good pitch, Smith let out a slight laugh.
"No. It was up and down the middle," Smith said. "He just hit it off the end. That's one of those things where, if you're going bad, sometimes you just need that ball that's right down the middle, for them to pop it up, to get you going. I still feel good. I've just got to make my pitches."
Bourn providing some unexpected pop lately
CLEVELAND -- When the Indians signed Michael Bourn to a four-year deal in the offseason, they figured a premier leadoff hitter had been added to the fold. The club didn't court Bourn for his power, which makes his recent production all the more satisfying.
After going deep twice in the first half of April, Bourn missed 21 games with a lacerated finger and went all of May and June without a home run. Over the Tribe's past three games, Bourn has doubled his season total.
Bourn drilled the second pitch from Texas starter Yu Darvish over the right-field fence to power Cleveland to a 1-0 victory on Saturday. Two games before, Bourn hit his first career grand slam during the Tribe's 10-1 win in Seattle.
"I don't have any certain thing that I'm trying to do," Bourn said. "I just try to put the bat on the ball. That's about it.
"I'm not going to say I'm never, ever thinking about hitting a home run, because that always crosses every player's mind every now and then."
Bourn has hit safely in five straight games and nine of the last 10. He is batting .333/.415/.556 over his last 10 contests, with 12 RBIs and six runs scored.
His home run off Darvish was the seventh leadoff long ball of his career.
"Every now and then, you get a pitch that you can hit and you really catch it, but I'm not going to lean on trying to hit leadoff home runs all the time," Bourn said. "If it's something that I can catch, and I really put a good swing on it, then that happens. But, just leading off the game with a home run, trying to do that, I'm not trying to do that."
Of course, going yard isn't high on the list of Bourn's priorities. As a leadoff hitter, he's simply trying to get on base and move into scoring position, setting up the rest of the order. Bourn, who led the National League in steals in 2009 and '10 and paced all of baseball in '11, is just as happy trotting around the bases as he is with swiping a bag or two and coming home on somebody else's hit.
"It's easier on the body," Bourn said. "I enjoy both of them. It doesn't matter either way. You're trying to score, trying to get runs on the board. That's about it. Other than that, I use whatever I have to use to try to do that."
Perez has been on a roll since return from DL
CLEVELAND -- Indians closer Chris Perez has quietly and quickly rediscovered his form in the ninth inning.
Since returning from the disabled list in late June following a bout with a right shoulder injury, Perez has been practically flawless at the back end of Cleveland's bullpen. In the ninth inning of Saturday's 1-0 win over Texas, he needed just six pitches to collect his latest save.
"I thought [that] was the best C.P. has thrown all year," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He came out with velocity, command. Again, I thought that was the best he's thrown the ball all year."
In 13 appearances since being activated from the 15-day DL on June 27, Perez has fashioned a 0.64 ERA, allowing just one earned run over 14 innings. Across those frames, the right-hander has amassed 11 strikeouts against three walks, posting a 0.86 WHIP and a .180 opponents' batting average.
Perez has not been speaking to reporters, but he has let his arm do the talking by collecting eight saves in eight chances since rejoining the bullpen.
On the season, Perez has a 2.64 ERA with 14 saves in 30 appearances for the Tribe.
During his brief encounter with the Rangers on Saturday night, Perez averaged 93.9 mph on his fastball, according to brooksbaseball.net, which compiles PITCHf/x data from each game. That was noticeably higher than Perez's career-low season average of 92.5 mph, and more on par with the 94-mph fastball the closer featured on average in 2012.
If Perez is nearing his form from last year, that would be a welcome development for an Indians team that has sought consistency in its bullpen throughout this season.
"He looks like he's back to the C.P. of last year and the year before," Indians setup man Joe Smith said. "That's great for us, man. The guy is a two-time All-Star closer. He locks down games. That shortens up games by an inning for us."
Quote to note
"I think I can throw like 500 pitches. I had about 380 more pitches left in me, man."
--Masterson, on being pulled from Saturday's game at 113 pitches
• Bourn's leadoff home run on Saturday night held up as the winning run for the Indians in a 1-0 victory over the Rangers. It marked the first time in franchise history that Cleveland won a 1-0 game in which the lone run came via a leadoff home run. It also represented the first such loss in Rangers history.
• Masterson has been on the mound for six of his team's 13 shutouts this season. The big righty has also been a part of three 1-0 victories, marking the most such wins for a Cleveland pitcher in one season since Greg Swindell (three) in 1988.
• The Indians entered Sunday's game riding a five-game winning streak over the Rangers, marking the longest run against Texas since winning six straight from Sept. 23, 2006-July 20, 2007. Cleveland was also looking for its first three-game sweep of Texas at home since Aug. 12-14, 1980.
• Entering Sunday, the Indians' rotation had gone a combined 7-2 with a Major League-leading 1.94 ERA (20 earned runs in 92 2/3 innings) and .188 opponents' batting average over the past 15 games, dating back to July 8. During that same span, the Tribe bullpen had a 2.83 ERA.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.