"Jhonny reminds me a lot of Derek Jeter," Wickman said. " Jhonny Peralta right now has a chance to be that kind of guy. All respect to Derek Jeter, he's the best in the game. But Jhonny has that kind of talent."
Peralta, who began the season batting ninth, hit a solo homer in the fourth off Gil Meche (10-7) and added an RBI single in a two-run fifth as the Indians bounced back from a demoralizing 4-3 loss Friday night.
The 22-year-old Peralta didn't expect to find his name in the third spot when he arrived at Jacobs Field.
"A little bit surprised," he said. "But I did OK."
Peralta is batting .356 with five homers and 17 RBI in the past 28 games. During his last 18 games he has 13 RBI, and every day he makes more Indians fans forget about Omar Vizquel, the wildly popular shortstop who left as a free agent last winter.
"He had big shoes to fill," Wickman said.
Lee (11-4) gave up three runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings while improving to 4-0 in four career starts against Seattle. The left-hander walked one and struck out five before being pulled after giving up Randy Winn's one-out RBI double in the eighth.
Wickman, making just his second appearance since the All-Star break, gave up a pair of one-out singles, and the Mariners put runners at second and third with two outs. But with Ichiro Suzuki on deck, Wickman got pinch-hitter Chris Snelling to ground out for his 19th straight save at home.
It never seems easy for Wickman, but it's impossible to argue with his results.
"He gets it done," Lee said. "I don't get nervous. When he's in there, it's game over."
Jason Dubois, acquired by the Indians earlier this week in a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Jody Gerut, hit his first AL homer. Dubois' shot leading off the seventh put the Indians ahead 4-2.
Cleveland, which came in four games behind Minnesota in the wild-card race, improved to just 4-12 since July 5.
"We're searching right now," Wickman said. "But we're still in it."
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner missed his seventh straight game with a concussion he sustained when Chicago's Mark Buehrle hit him in the face with a pitch. Hafner might still go on the disabled list, but the Indians want to wait a few more days to see if he improves.
With Hafner out, Indians manager Eric Wedge reluctantly moved the streaking Peralta up in the lineup. He didn't want to put any more pressure on Peralta, who hasn't buckled to anything in his first full season in the majors.
"I'm sure he'll be back in there (at No. 3) tomorrow," Wedge said.
Peralta, the International League MVP in 2004, brought Cleveland to 2-1 in the fourth with a leadoff homer, his 13th.
The Indians then scored two unearned runs in the fifth off Meche, who should have been out of the inning.
After picking Aaron Boone off first for out No. 2, Meche got Grady Sizemore to hit a routine grounder to shortstop, but rookie Michael Morse nearly overthrew 6-foot-8 first baseman Richie Sexson, who had to jump high to pull it down.
"It was a bad throw," said Morse, who had three errors Thursday in Toronto. "I threw it bad. I couldn't tell you what I did. I just know I didn't hit him in the chest. You want to make every play."
Coco Crisp followed with a single as did Peralta, driving in Sizemore to tie it 2-2 while snapping an 0-for-12 slump by the Indians with runners in scoring position. Victor Martinez's RBI single made it 3-2.
Meche, who dropped to 1-6 in his career against Cleveland, didn't blame Morse for his miscue.
"We all make errors. I make errors," he said. "Instead of picking him up, I gave up two runs and made his day terrible because of it. It got away from me."
- Before connecting, Dubois was 1-for-13 with the Indians.
- Suzuki is batting .378 (28-for-74) in July.
- Hafner saw the cringe-inducing photograph of American diver Chelsea Davis, who hit her nose on the diving board during the World Swimming Championships in Montreal on Friday. Davis received stitches and was fortunate not to be hurt worse. "I should give her a call and maybe we could share war stories," Hafner said.
- Wedge has been juggling the middle of his order all season. Eight players have hit third or fourth and Wedge has used 11 players in the No. 5 hole.