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Notes: Big stage suits Peralta well

Notes: Big stage suits Peralta well

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CLEVELAND -- The consistent knock on Jhonny Peralta has centered on his concentration levels over the course of a season. Some say the young Indians shortstop is too easily distracted or too quick to lose focus on the field.

But under the glare of the postseason spotlight, Peralta has never looked more polished.

The Indians entered Game 3 of the American League Championship Series with Peralta as their leading October hitter. He was batting .458 (11-for-24) with a homer and six RBIs.

Talk about rising to the occasion.

"I don't feel nervous," Peralta said. "I feel excited to play in the playoffs. I think I play better than in the regular season. I like the fans. I like it to be loud. When everything's loud, I play easier."

How does one explain that? Well, for one, Peralta has made an effort in recent months to improve his visualization of events on the field. He tries to put himself through a mental rehearsal, of sorts, to see plays happen before they actually occur.

That mental side only serves to assist the physical changes Peralta has already taken care of to improve his performance. He's dropped about 10 pounds this season, and he spent all winter working on his range in the field.

And while some view Peralta's body language as that of a player taking a lackadaisical approach, manager Eric Wedge implied quite the contrary when talking about Peralta before Monday's Game 3.

"I think his personality gives him an edge," Wedge said. "He has a sense of calm about him when everybody else is a little amped-up. I think that helps him."

Peralta made two of the biggest plays to help the Indians to a Game 2 win that evened this ALCS up at a game apiece. His three-run homer to center field off Curt Schilling in the fourth inning gave the Tribe a 4-3 lead shortly after the Red Sox had gone up, 3-1.

Defensively, with the score tied in the 10th inning, Peralta was playing to the right of second base because of a shift on David Ortiz. Big Papi sent a bouncing grounder Peralta's way, and it took a bad hop in the dirt. The ball bounced hard off Peralta's chest, but he stayed with it to pick it up and get the out at first.

"How 'bout the way he stuck his nose in there?" Wedge said. "And that ball about hit him in the throat. You've got your throat hanging out, and you've got to pick it up and throw him out, too."

It's hard to say if Peralta visualized that one. But his efforts to help the Indians this month haven't gone unnoticed.

"He's had a heck of a postseason," Wedge said.

Trotting out Trot: Trot Nixon has a chance to ensure that his heroic RBI single while pinch-hitting in the 11th inning of Saturday's game isn't the only impact he makes on this series.

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Nixon, who was supplanted by Franklin Gutierrez as the Tribe's everyday right fielder in August, was back in the starting lineup on Monday. His previous postseason start had come in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Roger Clemens, because he had a long history of success against the Rocket.

But this start was more about the struggles Gutierrez has displayed against breaking balls in October. Before jacking a three-run, 11th-inning homer in garbage time of Game 2, Gutierrez had been largely quiet at the plate, because he had been fed a steady diet of curves and sliders.

"This guy today [Daisuke Matsuzaka] can [throw the breaking ball] better than anybody," Wedge said.

Wedge has also liked the way Nixon has swung the bat of late. In addition to coming through in the clutch Saturday, Nixon homered off Clemens.

As for Gutierrez, "We still have to remember how young he is and how much we've put on him in a short period of time," Wedge said. "Sitting and watching a game -- or part of a game -- is going to help him."

Did you know? In seven of the last eight ALCS matchups, the team to win Game 2 has advanced to the World Series. The lone exception was the 2004 Red Sox, who dropped the first three games to the Yankees before winning four straight on their way to a World Series title. The winner of Game 2 has won 28 of 42 LCS series since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1985.

Tribe tidbits: So what happened to the Tribe's dual aces in Games 1 and 2? C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined to put up a ghastly 12.96 ERA against the Red Sox. "C.C. and Fausto worked away from their strengths somewhat," Wedge said. "They tried to be a little bit too fine." Sabathia is expected to pitch Game 5 on Thursday, while Carmona would pitch Game 6, if necessary. ... The Indians' charter back from Boston didn't arrive until around 6:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. ... Wedge has been as impressed as anybody with the Colorado Rockies, who have won 20 of 21 games and taken a 3-0 lead in the National League Championship Series. "What they're doing, I'm sure it's never happened before, when you talk about a stretch like that at this time of the season," Wedge said. "I'm sure they're playing with about as much confidence as a team can play with right now."

On deck: Game 4 has a later start time of 8:21 p.m. ET at Jacobs Field. Right-handed soft-tosser Paul Byrd (1-0, 3.60 ERA in the postseason) will oppose right-handed knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (first appearance) in what Byrd called potentially the "slowest-throwing right-handed matchup in postseason history."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
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