CLEVELAND — A Detroit television reporter brought an apology from Casey Blake to the Tigers clubhouse on Tuesday, but it was an unnecessary one.
Blake, who hit a walk-off home run to beat Detroit 6-5 in 11 innings on Monday night, felt as though he might have overdone it as he circled the bases yelling and pumping his fist in celebration.
“If you can’t celebrate that, what can you celebrate?” asked Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “Cleveland is a class act. They came back and snuck (a win). We did that last year.”
“He didn’t have to apologize,” said Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was behind the plate when Blake ended the series opener on a drive to left-center off Detroit reliever Zach Miner. “It was a big game and a big win for them. If it was me in that situation, I would’ve been doing the same thing.”
Blake, one of the more classy players in the majors, said he was caught up in the big moment.
“To lose the first game would have been tough,” Blake said. “That’s why I was so fired up. It was such a big win.”
Indians manager Eric Wedge said he didn’t see Blake’s home-run trot, but he wasn’t surprised the third baseman was worried he might have shown up the opposition.
“That’s a credit to Casey,” he said. “Our players are very respectful.”
What a relief
Where would the Indians be without Rafael Betancourt?
“He’s been a big part of our success,” Wedge said. “He’s been about as consistent as any relief pitcher we’ve had for four years.
“He’s been in pretty much every role you can have a guy in and he’s done about everything you can ask him to in those roles.”
Betancourt has been better than ever this year, holding down the setup role and posting a 5-1 record and 1.48 ERA in 62 appearances through Monday. The right-hander entered Tuesday with the fifth-lowest ERA among big league relievers with at least 50 innings, while ranking second in the American League in holds (27) to Anaheim’s Scot Shields (30).
It’s me, Jhonny P
Jhonny Peralta’s numbers look more and more like the ones he produced during a breakthrough year in the majors in 2005, not the dismal ones he managed last season.
Peralta entered Tuesday hitting .271 with 20 home runs and 71 RBIs in 143 games, batting just .257 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs all of last season. He hit .292 with 24 homers and 78 RBIs in 2005.
“It’s significant because of the way he’s played this year,” Wedge said. “You talk about a guy that committed (in the offseason).”
Peralta’s second homer of the night Monday tied the game and bumped him past Omar Vizquel on the team’s all-time list for career homers by a shortstop with 61.
First things first
With a 5 1/2-game lead over Detroit through Monday, does Wedge allow himself to start thinking about more than a division title, possibly home field advantage in the postseason?
“That’s not on my mind,” he said. “I’d be foolish to talk about it.”
Cleveland entered Tuesday tied with the Angels and trailing the Red Sox by 1½ games for AL’s best record.
Paul Byrd was wearing a tee shirt in the clubhouse that read “Got Pronk?” on the front and “We do” on the back.
• The Indians are one of three American League teams — Detroit and Toronto the others — to boast seven players with at least 10 homers, led by Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez with 23 apiece through Monday.
• Jaxon Lee, the six-year-old son of Cleveland pitcher Cliff Lee, threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. Jaxon is in remission from a form of childhood leukemia.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.