Since rejoining the Indians on May 31, Gutierrez has notched just six hits in 31 at-bats, but he's scored four runs, driven in four runs, hit two homers and come through with one pinch-hit. Manager Eric Wedge said Gutierrez has taken a more aggressive approach at the plate this season.
Gutierrez has also been less timid in the field. The catch he made of an Alex Gonzalez line drive in Cincinnati on June 9, crashing into the right-field wall to make the grab and preserve a 10th-inning tie, was one of the Tribe's defensive highlights of the season.
Groomed as a center fielder, Gutierrez proved himself as a right fielder with that play.
"The first time you make that play in right field and you feel great the next day," Gutierrez said, "it's going to give you more confidence."
The Indians' confidence in the 24-year-old Gutierrez has grown over the years, to the point that he's become somewhat of a platoon man in right field, spelling Trot Nixon against left-handed pitching. On Sunday, he'll spell Nixon in right against Braves right-hander Kyle Davies.
This is an important season for Gutierrez, because he will be out of Minor League options in 2008, and the Indians will have to decide if they want to keep him around.
Apparently, he's on the right track.
"He's been a little bit better every year," Wedge said. "He's done a great job of really working on his craft, and he's getting better in every area of the game. You've got to be thrilled with the progress he's made."
Here's the question...
Game 3 of the 1995 World Series between the Indians and Braves was the first championship game played in Jacobs Field. Jose Mesa worked three innings of relief to get the 7-6, 11-inning win, but whose RBI base hit gave the Tribe the winning run?
Long relief is an inglorious role, but it's a role Rafael Perez has performed quite well since his May 28 callup from Triple-A Buffalo.
Take, for instance, Perez's four-inning performance against the Braves on Saturday. Sent into a 5-2 ballgame in the sixth inning, Perez struck out six and his only mistake was the solo homer that he allowed to Edgar Renteria in the ninth.
"To go four innings and only give up one run [is impressive]," Wedge said. "He gave us a chance to stay in the ballgame."
But is Perez, who has allowed just two earned runs in 18 innings of work this season, pitching well enough to take on a more prominent relief role?
"He's doing a good job in the role he's in now," Wedge said. "It's a great role for him to break into the big leagues in and get some consistency with. Ultimately, he'll move to a different role. But you can't underestimate the value of what he's done."
Take a break:
Wedge bumped the struggling Travis Hafner down to the fifth spot of the lineup in the first two games of the weekend set with the Braves. On Sunday, Wedge bumped him out of the lineup altogether, giving Pronk's mind and body a rest.
Hafner is 5-for-30 over his last eight games and has no homers and just two extra-base hits in June.
"I've watched a lot of video and worked a lot in the cage," Hafner said. "It's more of a feel thing than a mechanical thing. I'm still working to get the same feel at the plate. I'm not far off."
One more time:
Jake Westbrook's body tells him that he's ready to rejoin the Indians' rotation, but his mind agrees with the Tribe's decision to give him one more rehab start.
That start will come on Monday in Buffalo against Louisville, and Westbrook is fine with it, having thrown just 67 pitches in his third start at Class A Lake County.
"If I came back and had trouble, it would put a lot of stress on the bullpen," Westbrook said. "I want to get more toward 90 pitches. So I feel strong about the decision."
With Hafner out of the lineup, Nixon was the designated hitter on Sunday. Nixon broke out of an 0-for-20 funk at the plate with a base hit on Saturday. ... First baseman Ryan Garko came into Sunday with just two hits in his last 34 at-bats. ... The Indians are batting just .254 as a team since June 2. ... Casey Blake's 25-game hitting streak is the eighth longest in club history and the longest by an Indians player since Sandy Alomar Jr.'s 30-game streak in '97. ... Rock group the Barenaked Ladies sang the national anthem before Sunday's game. ... Cleveland Browns first-round draft picks Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas will throw out the first pitch at Monday's game against the Phillies. Thus far, the Indians haven't sold more than 20,000 tickets for any of the three games against the Phillies.
And the answer is...
Eddie Murray hit the game-winning single for the Indians in the 11th. It was the Tribe's first win in a World Serie since 1948.
On deck: The Indians will open a three-game series against the Phillies at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Jacobs Field. Left-hander Cliff Lee (3-4, 6.04 ERA) will oppose fellow southpaw Cole Hamels (9-2, 3.47).