The Dodgers heard the stories, watched a few TV highlights, but until Saturday afternoon never quite realized what they were missing.
They watched the Carlos Perez Show up close and personal, and when the curtain fell, they had become the latest to scream at him in anger and yell at themselves in exasperation. Perez, whose zany antics on the mound make Deion Sanders’ act look stuffy, led the Montreal Expos to a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers, once again getting the last laugh.
“I liked watching him on TV better,” Dodger pitcher Tom Candiotti said. “When you watch him, you say, ‘What kind of act is this? What kind of drugs is this guy on?’ Maybe it’s not an act, but it looks like it to me.
“Sometimes, it’s good when you see different characters in the game. It can make it interesting for a lot of fans.
“But you also see a lot of hotdogs, a lot of perro calientes . It’s almost like they don’t have any respect for the game.
“We’ll have to see where he’s at.”
Perez, 24, starting only his fourth major league game, charmed the announced paid crowd of 24,503 at Olympic Stadium, amused his teammates and tormented the Dodgers with his eccentric behavior.
He danced off the mound and threw his hands wildly above his head after each of his six strikeouts. He pumped his fist on good plays. He patted the mound in frustration. And he high-hurdled the foul line for good luck after each inning.
He also pitched seven shutout innings, giving up eight hits, all singles. He is 4-0 and has a 1.61 earned-run average.
“I looked at all of their guys on the bench today, and I know what they’re thinking,” Perez said.
“They think I’m crazy; every last one of them thinks I’m crazy,” said Perez, the youngest brother of flamboyant pitcher Pascual Perez, now retired in the Dominican Republic, and Melido Perez.
“But when I see them on the bench yelling at me, and laughing, that’s when I know I got them. I saw that today. That’s when I know I took them out of the game.
“They got so worried about me, they forgot to hit. I mess with their heads, and they can’t handle it. They really can’t.
“I was watching their pitcher [Ismael Valdes] today, thinking he might hit me when I batted. Nobody’s tried yet, but it’s coming. It’s coming soon. I can sense it.
“But as soon as somebody does, I’ll pay them back. And I’ll pay them back good. You watch.”
Although most of the Dodger batters proclaimed that Perez’s antics played no part in their dormant offense, left fielder Billy Ashley acknowledged that it was responsible for at least his first strikeout.
“He plays with guys’ heads a little bit; I know he did mine,” Ashley said. “You get overanxious. My first at-bat, I was just overly aggressive.”
Perez wears a large gold hoop earring in his left ear and a few gold chains around his neck. He says he doesn’t quite have the $35,000 jewelry ensemble Pascual wore each day, but he has something just as valuable: that Perez family arm. The left-hander fooled the Dodgers with his forkball, kept them off-balance with his slider/curve and fired a few fastballs past them.
The Dodgers couldn’t score until Roberto Kelly’s two-out single in the ninth drove in Chris Gwynn. Jose Offerman walked, leaving runners on first and second for Raul Mondesi. But Mel Rojas got him to ground to third for his ninth save, leaving Valdes (0-2) with the defeat.
Said Expo first baseman Henry Rodriguez: “It was so funny looking across the field and seeing [Dodger Manager] Tommy [Lasorda] scream, and everyone else’s reaction.
“I mean, the guy is crazy. Maybe not as crazy as his brother [Pascual], but he’s still crazy.”
Perez emerged as a solid pitcher last season at triple-A Ottawa, and showtime began May 7 when he became the Expos’ fifth starter.
“People tell me that I try to be like my brother,” Perez said. “Hey, this is just me. You can’t change me. . . . This is my personality. You know, like Dennis Rodman. He’s got his thing, and I got mine.
“If people don’t like it, that’s just tough. Come on, you going to get mad at me?”
Perez winked, laughed, and walked away.
It was time to call Pascual. At least he understands.
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The Dodgers have had little success at Montreal in the ‘90s:
Year Record Pct. 1990 1-5 .167 1991 0-6 .000 1992 1-5 .167 1993 2-4 .333 1994 1-5 .167 1995 0-2 .000 Total 5-27 .156