Chris Perez throws 20 pitches of live batting practice

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When Indians closer Chris Perez suffered a strained left oblique on February 24 — during his first bullpen session of the spring — the general belief was that he would be inactive at the beginning of the regular season. But Perez has defied the odds, and should be ready for a save opportunity on Opening Day.

According to beat writer Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Perez tossed 20 pitches of live batting practice Wednesday afternoon in Indians camp, reporting no lingering pain or discomfort on the left side of his body. If he wakes up feeling normal on Thursday morning, the right-hander could be cleared to make his Cactus League debut on Friday or Saturday.

As a reliever, he only needs a handful of spring innings to get properly tuned up for regular-season action.

Perez, 26, registered a cool 3.32 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 59 2/3 innings last year for Cleveland, collecting 36 saves in 40 opportunities. He carries a 3.13 career ERA, a 1.19 career WHIP and an 8.5 K/9.

Watch: Brian McCann’s incredible tag nails Greg Bird at home plate

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Things got a little wild in the fifth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS on Saturday. With one out and runners at the corners, Astros’ right-hander Charlie Morton fired a 1-1 fastball to Todd Frazier. Frazier returned the ball to third baseman Alex Bregman, who tossed a perfect throw over to Brian McCann at the plate just as Greg Bird came charging home. McCann’s setup was flawless, nailing Bird as he slid into the plate and nullifying the Yankees’ first real attempt to get on the board.

That’s as close as the Yankees have come to scoring so far. The Astros took an early 1-0 lead with Evan Gattis‘ 405-footer off of CC Sabathia in the top of the fourth inning. Jose Altuve chimed in with an opposite-field solo shot in the fifth, while McCann followed his lead-preserving tag with an equally jaw-dropping two-out, two-RBI double. Houston currently leads 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth.