TORONTO — In one productive inning, Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez snapped the longest homer drought of his career and boosted his season RBI total by 50 percent.
Perez hit his first home run since April 10 and drove in a career-high four, Michael Brantley had a two-run shot and the Indians outslugged the Toronto Blue Jays 9-8 on Saturday, helping Cleveland inch closer to clinching a playoff berth.
The Indians began the day with a magic number of seven to lock up their third straight AL Central title.
All of Perez’s RBIs came in Cleveland’s seven-run fifth inning. He began the outburst with a leadoff drive off right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, snapping a 50-game drought.
Three batters later, Brantley connected for his 15th. Blue Jays pitchers issued five walks in the inning, including four straight at one stretch, the last of which came with the bases loaded to Jason Kipnis. Perez followed with a three-run double.
“It feels good,” Perez said. “I’ve been working hard every day, coming in and doing my routine, and it’s paying off. It was just a matter of time. It’s been a long season. Hopefully I turn it on from now on.”
Perez raised his average from .148 to .157 and increased his RBI total from eight to 12.
“He put together one heck of a day,” Indians right-hander Adam Plutko said. “Even behind the dish, he stopped a few balls late in the game. He did a great job today.”
Brantley returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games because of a sore left foot and went 2-for-4 with two walks.
“We knew he was OK but it’s always nice to have him,” manager Terry Francona said.
Josh Tomlin (1-5) got two outs for the win and Cody Allen, Cleveland’s seventh pitcher of the game, worked around a one-out double in the ninth to earn his 26th save.
Randal Grichuk homered twice for the Blue Jays, his fourth career multihomer game, and Rowdy Tellez hit his first career homer. The Blue Jays lost despite outhitting the Indians 18-11.
“A little bit of a crazy game,” Francona said.
Reid-Foley (1-3) made his fourth career start and allowed six runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked a season-high five and struck out three.
“If I have to trip on a couple of curbs and learn from it, I still have to keep my head up and have fun,” Reid-Foley said.
Justin Shafer relieved and threw 10 consecutive balls. Perez’s bases-clearing double came on Shafer’s 12th pitch.
Grichuk connected off Plutko in the third, and he and Tellez chased Plutko by going back-to-back in the fifth. Grichuk’s homers were his 20th and 21st.
The home run was Tellez’s seventh extra-base hit, the most by any player over his first four games since 1913.
“It’s one of those surreal moments that you just dream about,” Tellez said. “It was pretty cool to do it here in front of the home fans.”
Plutko matched his career worst by allowing five runs and gave up a career-high nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Aledmys Diaz had four hits for Toronto, including three doubles.
18 isn’t enough
The Blue Jays lost a game in which they had 18 or more hits for the first time since a 10-inning road defeat to the Yankees on Sept. 22, 2007. The Indians won when allowing 18 or more hits for the first time since Aug. 23, 2006.
Cleveland has had six seven-run innings this season, including three against Toronto.
Tellez is the first Blue Jays player with eight hits in his first four games. Danny Ainge, Aaron Hill, Lloyd Moseby and Travis Snider each had seven.
INDIANS: Josh Donaldson (left calf) made his second straight start at third base for Double-A Akron and went 1-for-3 in five innings. Donaldson will work out with the Indians in Tampa Bay on Monday and could be activated off the disabled list Tuesday.
Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (11-7, 3.11) faces Blue Jays left-hander Thomas Pannone (1-1, 4.58) in today’s series finale. Clevinger has won four straight decisions and is unbeaten since July 28 at Detroit. Pannone, a former Indians minor leaguer, will make his third major league start in place of righty Marcus Stroman (blister).