There’s still three games left in the current homestand. If Kansas City Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez’s assault on the Kauffman Stadium fountains continues, they’ll have to start handing out fishing nets called “Salvy Skimmers” to collect the baseballs he deposits in the water by the end of the next series.
Once again with the Royals and Toronto Blue Jays fighting to score, Perez stepped to the plate and changed the outlook of the day with one swing.
Saturday evening, he did it with a walk-off solo home run into the fountains to give the Royals a doubleheader split.
Sunday, Perez broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a two-run homer to left-center on the first pitch of his at-bat against Blue Jays reliever T.J. Zeuch. The Royals held on for a 2-0 win over the Blue Jays in front of an announced crowd of 9,042 Sunday afternoon.
Perez became the first Royal to hit go-ahead home runs in the seventh inning or later on back-to-back days, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Anything for a win,” Perez said. “It feels great, especially (because) in the first three innings we left a lot of guys in scoring position. I think every time we’ve got the opportunity to do something for the team, we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to get it done. We didn’t do it in the first two innings, but we got better late in the game. That’s how we play together. That’s what a team does.”
Perez, who is now batting .291 with a .957 OPS, flipped the entire outlook on a day when the Royals stranded 13 men on base and went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
The win also gave the Royals (9-5) the four-game series victory.
“He just continues to amaze us,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Perez. “You can tell our fans love him, and he keeps doing things to make them love him more. It’s just so fun to watch. That shutout, to me, just giving up a couple hits too — (catchers take) a lot of pride (in that). I know Salvy takes a lot of pride in how that game unfolds.”
Perez’s fifth home run of the season eased the tension of the Royals having been on the cusp of breaking the game open all day without delivering the one crucial blow.
“There’s no guarantees in this game,” Matheny said. “You watched a very good pitcher on their side continue to make tough pitches on their side when he got backed against the wall, and he kept finding ways out of it and finding ways out of it until the next thing you know this thing could go either way. It’s who is going to get the big hit.”
The Royals stranded nine men on base in the first four innings against Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray, including six runners in scoring position. They went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position during that stretch.
The lone hit came on a single by Carlos Santana in the first inning where Whit Merrifield was forced to hold up at third base with no outs.
They left the bases loaded in each of the first two innings.
In the first, a Hanser Alberto shallow fly ball to right field and a Hunter Dozier grounder to third ended the threat. In the second, Perez flew out to left field.
They left two more on in the third after back-to-back two-out walks. Nicky Lopez started the fourth off with an aggressive baserunning play to put himself in scoring position with the top of the order due up behind him.
Lopez burst out of the box on a ball up the middle that slowed on the outfield grass. He hustled his way into second base ahead of the throw for a double, but Merrifield, Santana and Perez all flew out.
While they didn’t put runs on the board, the Royals ran up Ray’s pitch count. The got into the bullpen by the sixth inning, and Zeuch took over to start the seventh. Santana singled on the first pitch of his at-bat and Perez followed by jumping on a first-pitch sinker.
“Everybody should have the mentality that it doesn’t matter what you do in the first three at-bats,” Perez said. “If you still have one more at-bat, things can change. It doesn’t matter if you’re 0 for 2 the first two at-bats, 0 for 3 with three Ks. If you still have one more chance, you can make the difference.”
Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer pitched six scoreless and allowed just two hits, including an infield single. He walked three and struck out six in a no decision.
In his previous start, Singer allowed four runs, but just one earned run on seven hits.
“I felt like I had command last outing too,” Singer said. “I think I just made a few mistakes and they put some good swings on the ball last outing.
“Even though I had good command (Sunday), I was just trying to stay away from the mistakes more than anything, especially with two strikes. I just want to make sure I didn’t leave anything in the middle of the plate for them to do damage on. I feel like I did a really good job of that.”
Monday’s scheduled starter Danny Duffy is the only other Royals starter to throw at least six scoreless innings in a start this season.
Kyle Zimmer (1-0) picked up the win in relief, while Josh Staumont also pitched a scoreless inning of relief and veteran reliever Greg Holland retired the side in order in the ninth to earn his second save of the season.
The Royals wrap up the 10-game homestand with a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The defending American League champions enter with a record of 8-8. The Royals remain the only AL club that hasn’t lost a series this season.
Left-hander Danny Duffy (2-0, 0.75) will start the opener against the Rays, while Brad Keller (1-1, 9.58) and Jakob Junis (1-0, 1.50) will follow.
Former Royals outfielder and Tampa native Brett Phillips has played in nine games this season for the Rays. He has gone 2 for 19 at the plate with two doubles, an RBI and three walks.