An unforeseen feud came to life Wednesday night, a spat pitting one of baseball’s most gregarious catchers against one of its most thoughtful pitchers.
For one moment inside Tropicana Field, Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer shared words and glances following an errant 96 mph fastball in the top of the seventh inning. In the moments after the Royals absorbed a 12-1 loss to the Rays, the emotions spilled over to the visiting clubhouse.
Archer professed innocence after drilling Perez with a first-pitch fastball. Perez, who finished 2 for 2 on his 27th birthday, offered a forceful retort.
“He’s going to throw at me because I have two hits against him,” Perez said. “I think he was mad. But I don’t think that’s the right way, you know? He never throw the first pitch inside. We can see all the reports he has, he never throws inside. Just get (me) out, you know? Just try to make some pitches.”
As he spoke, Perez grew slightly more upset. He offered one expletive before finishing his comments with another.
“That’s bull(expletive),” Perez said. “That’s what I think.”
In the other clubhouse, Archer delivered a different view on the events of the seventh inning.
“Honestly, there was nothing malicious there,” Archer said. “I’ve had some great interactions with him in the past. Whenever we crossed paths prior to that, we were just saying playful things to each other.”
It was unclear what would have motivated Archer to throw at Perez. The Rays possessed a 7-0 lead in the seventh. Archer was cruising, poised to finish the game with eight scoreless innings. The two players had shared a brief moment in the fifth inning. Perez singled to left to open the inning. He was still on base when Archer struck out Brandon Moss to close out the frame. As Perez jogged back to the dugout, he appeared to share a word or two with Archer. In the moments after the game, Archer played down the moment.
“He’s a good hitter,” Archer said. “I’m trying to pitch inside. There’s no malicious intent with 96 miles an hour.”
Yet, after a baseball had glanced off his side, appearing to catch the padding on his arm, Perez stood near home plate and stared back at Archer. He held out his left arm in protest. Archer gestured immediately, appearing to signal that he did not mean to throw at him. Perez was contained by home-plate umpire Chad Whitson and Rays catcher Derek Norris as he moved toward first.
“It’s hard for me to judge intent,” Royals manager Ned Yost would say. “It’s awful strange that as good as his command was that one got away from him. Sal had hit the ball hard twice. It didn’t make any sense to me, so it’s hard to fathom.”
The players continued to jaw as Perez walked slowly toward first base. Archer walked toward the plate before stopping and moving back toward the mound. The Royals replaced Perez with a pinch runner. The game continued. Yet, when asked if he took issue with the pitch, Perez could not let the moment go.
“Of course,” he said.