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Kansas City Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez didn’t have it in him to give the textbook, cliché answer. He wouldn’t even fix his lips to begin to make the claim he hadn’t given a thought to hitting 48 or 50 home runs.
When asked following Monday’s game how he has kept from focusing on the potential home run milestones and records, Perez was honest.
“It’s hard not to think about that,” he said. “Everybody knows there’s only six games left, but I don’t try to take that with me. I’m just trying to have fun, play the last six games and see what happens.”
Perez went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs in an 8-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in the last road game of the season on Monday. He finished the trip with back-to-back multi-hit games, and he has six multi-hit performances in his past 13 games.
The Royals return home on Tuesday night for their final six games of the season, three against the Indians followed by three against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium.
Perez enters the final stretch tied with Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero for the major-league lead in home runs (46). Perez’s two RBIs on Monday pushed his major-league leading total to 117. He has four more than the Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu, who ranks second with 113.
Perez tied former teammate Jorge Soler (2019) for the seventh-most RBIs in a single season in franchise history. The only Royals to drive in more in a season were George Brett (118 in 1980), Jermaine Dye (118, 2000), Dean Palmer (119, 1998), Dye (119, 1999), Hal McRae (133, 1982) and Mike Sweeney (144, 2000).
“You talk about the home runs all you want to and those are exciting and obviously some things that we’re tracking close, but just how hard he hits the ball on a consistent basis puts him in a very rare category,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said.
Perez’s hard-hit percentage of 56.1% ranked third in the majors as of Monday, behind only New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
Perez has hit 248 balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more, second only to Guerrero in the majors.
Perez enters the final six games just two home runs from tying Soler’s single-season franchise record for home runs (48) set in 2019.
Perez’s 46 homer season has already set the new standard for catchers. He passed Hall of Famer Johnny Bench’s record of 45 home runs, which stood since 1970, the most by any player who’d played at least 75% of his games as a catcher.
Perez became the first catcher since Javy Lopez in 2003 with 40 homers in a season. Lopez hit 43 in 2003.
In the official record count per the Elias Sports Bureau, Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez holds the American League record for single-season home runs by a catcher — defined as a player while in the lineup as the catcher — with 35 homers in 1999.
Bench hit 38 of his homers in 1970 while playing catcher. The official major-league record in that regard is 42, set by Lopez in 2003.
Fifteen of Perez’s home runs this season have come as a designated hitter, so 31 of the homers count towards the official record.
Perez still has time to eclipse more records.
“I’m going to try to do my best,” Perez said. “If it’s going to come, it’s going to come. If not, it’s good — what I’ve done already this year.”