CLEVELAND: On a night when New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter became just the sixth player in major-league history to collect his 1,000th career multihit game and Ichiro Suzuki recorded career hit 2,800, the game belonged to the Indians offense and the feel-good story of rookie catcher Roberto Perez.
In his sixth professional season, the Puerto Rican native Perez crossed a bunch of major-league firsts off the list in a big-league debut Thursday that was a 9-3 Indians victory.
Perez’s big night began with his first hit and run scored in the Tribe’s go-ahead four-run seventh inning and continued with his first home run and RBI in the host’s two-run eighth inning.
But Perez and the rest of the Tribe’s batsmen were quiet early as Yankees starting pitcher David Phelps kept them off the scoreboard through six innings before the Tribe mounted a late rally.
The early offense came courtesy of the visitors.
Right fielder Zelous Wheeler snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth inning with a one-out, two-run homer that hugged the left-field line and stayed fair just long enough to put the visitors on the board against Indians rookie starter T.J. House.
After the homer, House found himself in a bases-loaded jam following a Lonnie Chisenhall fielding error at third base followed by a Brett Wagner single and Jeter walk with two outs.
But House extracted himself without further damage by inducing Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out. Chisenhall’s error was his 13th of the season, trailing only the Oakland A’s Josh Donaldson, who has 15.
The Yankees tacked on another run in the fifth inning. With two outs, House hit Francisco Cervelli with a pitch and Wheeler followed with a single that went right past Chisenhall, who couldn’t be credited with an error, butt he’d likely admit he should’ve made the play.
The mental error gave the Yankees new life, as third baseman Yangervis Solarte followed with an RBI single to left field, ending House’s night early.
The left-hander lasted just 4⅔ innings, using 94 pitches while giving up the three runs on eight hits and two walks.
Right-handed reliever Vinnie Pestano finished up the inning by retiring Brendan Ryan on a called third strike and then pitched to two batters in the sixth — including serving up Jeter’s second single that allowed him to reach the career milestone in his final season before retiring.
The Tribe couldn’t touch Phelps for six innings, but suddenly broke through for back-to-back singles by Chris Dickerson (whose third hit of the game matched a career high) and Perez.
The Yankees’ usually reliable reliever Matt Thornton took over for Phelps and looked to quell the threat, but the Indians’ rally continued. Jason Kipnis sent a shot back up the middle that banged off Thornton and rolled away, allowing Kipnis to reach safely and load the bases with no outs.
That’s when Asdrubal Cabrera hit a shot to the right-field corner that cleared the bases and left him standing on third with a triple.
Before the inning was over, Michael Brantley sent a fly ball to shallow center field that Ellsbury made a sliding catch to reach, but not fast enough to keep Cabrera from scoring on the sacrifice fly.
In the eighth inning against Yankees right-hander Jim Miller, the Indians continued to pad their offensive stats with a five-run splurge that included a two-run homer by Perez that originally was ruled a double before a crew chief review reversed the call and handed the rookie his first career homer.
The Tribe kept the inning going with Brantley adding an RBI single and Carlos Santana a two-run homer that gave the Indians a six-run cushion with which to finish the game.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.