Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/24/12
CLEVELAND -- Baseball statements are not made in May, so the Cleveland Indians three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers counts for no more than three wins. But it's safe to say that the Indians gave the Tigers -- and everyone who conceded Detroit the Al Central title in the offseason -- something to think about. The Indians beat all-world ace Justin Verlander Thursday afternoon to complete a three-up, three-down sweep. Cleveland now is 26-18 and eight games over .500 for the first time since July 7 of last season. And for the third day in a row, closer Chris Perez sprinted in from the bullpen to pitch a scoreless ninth and earn the save, finishing with a strong fist pump as Cleveland moved six games ahead of the Tigers. In an odd way, Perez seems to have ignited interest in this team with his critical words directed at Cleveland fans. More than 20,000 showed up in each game of the Tigers series, and Perez said the crowd for a noon start was the largest he'd seen for a work-week afternoon game. Instead of being divisive, Perez seems to have become unifying. "I think it can be," he said after earning his 16th save in a row. "We're playing with some swagger now. We've got that winning attitude and that's what you need. That's half the battle, believing you can do it." His critical words about fans not showing up oddly led to standing ovations for him every time he left the bullpen. That, plus the fact the Indians were playing the Tigers, led to a charged atmosphere at Progressive Field. The buzz about the team increased, with folks checking and talking about the attendance. "It's still early in the year," Perez said. "But wins are wins." And the wins matter a little more to the team chasing the team that ran away with the division last season. A year ago, the Indians floundered after a great April and good May. This season, they understand what it will take to compete until September, and they understand they are in first place without anyone -- except perhaps Perez -- doing anything special. "We're just kind of chilling here," said Justin Masterson, who gave up just one run despite walking five in the win. "I don't think there's been much of a spike in anything yet." Meaning nobody is playing, as he said, "out of their shoes," but everybody is contributing in their way. Thursday it was Shin-Soo Choo starting with a 450-foot blast to the mezzanine in right to start the game, and backup infielder Jose Lopez throwing out Brandon Boesch at home on a grounder and then singling in the go-ahead run in the fourth. "It's somebody different every night," Perez said. "Because that's what good teams do." The Indians beat Verlander despite the fact he was throwing 100 mph plus in an unbelievable eighth inning. Cleveland got good starting pitching, excellent bullpen work and played sound defense to win three games by two, two and one run. "They're a very good team that's playing very well," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And we're a very good team that's not playing very well." Perez was quick to point out that the Indians swept Detroit early last season as well, asking "What kind of message did that send?" But Verlander said he turned his velocity up in the eighth to fire up his team -- an interesting tactic for a group that has Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitting third and fourth. The Indians have not blinked at the potential the Tigers have amassed. That potential has gone 11-21 after starting 9-3 and has not won consecutive games since April 18. The Indians have scored four more runs than Detroit (190-186), have the best intradivision record of any team in baseball (13-7) and are 10-2 in one-run games, also the best in baseball. "It's just that we don't have the star power," Perez said. As he spoke he sounded like an energized but relieved young man (no pun intended). He knew his words criticizing the fans could have turned many against him if he did not back them up. Three saves in three games against Detroit is pretty solid backup. "Little extra pressure there," he said. Teams have been galvanized by all sorts of strange developments. But if the Indians are brought closer and the interest keeps taking off, it might be the first time a team grew by ripping its fans. At this point the front office might want to consider giving Perez a bonus for generating such a buzz about a team that he simply said was "good." "No," Perez said with smile, "they pay me enough already."
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Cam Newton explains why he did not dive on fumble

George Karl’s agent rips Kings, wants broadcaster reprimanded

WATCH: Popovich has funny reaction to New Hampshire results

Suns vets pull packing peanut prank on rookie Devin Booker

Teammate gives Manning final completion ball from Super Bowl

Report: Ole Miss Football cited in 13 of 28 department violations by NCAA


Larry Sanders to consider NBA comeback after other interests stabilize

The NCAAB power rankings

SEC begins crying foul over Jim Harbaugh’s spring break plans at Michigan

Marc Gasol reportedly out indefinitely with broken foot

Patriots waive Montee Ball despite never officially re-signing running back

Chicago White Sox: Impact of Mat Latos signing

WATCH: Dancing Kentucky fan slides down rail, fails

Clemson LB has great response to NFL draft analyst's criticism

Former Aggies QB Kyle Allen reveals culture problems at Texas A&M

WATCH: Roy Williams collapses during game vs. BC

Panthers TE Greg Olsen shaves off his playoff beard

Derek Fisher thanks Knicks in statement

Miami Heat to honor Shaq by retiring his number 32

Oakland Raiders release Nate Allen

B.J. Penn announces he will return at UFC 197

Bring back the Dunk Contest

Michael Jordan’s rep comments on the crying meme

10 NBA teams that could be active at the trade deadline

‘The X-Files’ takes a shot at the Philadelphia 76ers

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker