Royals

Salvador Perez's late homer lifts Royals to 9-6 victory over the Mariners

The Royals’ Salvador Perez looked to the sky as he crossed home plate after hitting a two-run homer in the 10th inning against the Mariners on Wednesday in Seattle.
The Royals’ Salvador Perez looked to the sky as he crossed home plate after hitting a two-run homer in the 10th inning against the Mariners on Wednesday in Seattle. The Associated Press

For a baseball team from the heartland, the West Coast is supposed to mean long flights and late nights, the body tested in a time zone far way. For the Royals in 2017, this coast has transformed a season.

On Wednesday night at Safeco Field, Salvador Perez clubbed a two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning, the decisive blow in a 9-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The cannon shot echoed across an emptying ballpark and disappeared into the seats in right field. The Royals completed a three-game sweep and moved to 10-2 across two West Coast road trips.

The first trip, which commenced in early June, lit the fuse for a torrid run up the American League standings. The latest has solidified their place in the postseason hunt. With three games remaining before the All-Star break, the Royals (44-40) moved to a season-high four games over .500 and seized control of the second Wild Card spot in the American League. As Perez unlaced his cleats inside the visitors clubhouse late Wednesday night, his team sat just a half game behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.

“The team is going the right way,” Perez said.

There may be no way to explain this season, of course, how a baseball team can go 10-20 in its first 30 games, how an offense can be so anemic, and then it all flips. The Royals have won 18 of 24 overall and 11 of 14 on the road.

For most of the last five weeks, they have been the hottest team in baseball. Perez points to the magic of baseball. Royals manager Ned Yost prefers to take a “day to day” approach. Every explanation feels somewhat empty. But Yost believes there is truth in the banal.

“It sounds so boring,” Yost said. “But it’s just day to day. Just win today. You don’t worry about climbing back into it. You don’t worry about where you are in the standings.

“Every once and while you put your head up, see where you are, and just keep plodding along.”

On Wednesday, the Royals could crane their necks and see that third baseman Mike Moustakas had homered for the third straight game, recording his 25th blast of the year in a four-run first. They could see that center fielder Lorenzo Cain added a game-tying two-run shot in the fifth inning. They could see an offense has averaged 5.75 runs during the last 24 games and a bullpen that turned in a lockdown performance for another night, logging five scoreless innings after an uncharacteristically average start from Jason Vargas. They could see a clubhouse that played music for another night as the rumors of a possible fire sale faded further from view.

“When you’re not winning,” Moustakas said, “everyone talks about a lot of different things — who’s going here, who’s going where. The one thing about this team and this clubhouse is we don’t think about that at all. We know that (general manager Dayton Moore) is going to keep us together and along for this ride, and ride us until we can’t anymore.”

The Royals entered the night looking for their first sweep at Safeco Field since 2010. It did not appear certain until Perez hammered an opposite-field homer against Mariners reliever James Pazos in the top of the 10th. The inning began with an error by Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, who booted a routine grounder from Lorenzo Cain. Perez strode to the plate with one out, looking for a pitch out over the plate after being foiled by outside fastballs in his previous at-bat against reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

When the pitch appeared, Perez did not miss.

Closer Kelvin Herrera closed out the game in the bottom of the 10th. The bullpen will receive a brief reprieve on Thursday as the club enjoys its final day off of the first half before opening a three-game series against the Dodgers on Friday night in Los Angeles.

But let's reset: The Royals knotted the game at 6-6 in the fifth inning on a cracking, 427-foot homer from the bat of Cain. Ahead in the count 1-2, Mariners starter Ariel Miranda missed with a slider and a fastball before laying a 93 mph fastball over the middle of the plate. The baseball left Cain’s bat at 107 mph as he leaned back into his trademark pose.

The Royals had ambushed Miranda for four runs in the first on two hits, a walk and a two-run homer by Moustakas, who went deep for the sixth time in eight games. They went quietly for the next three innings before Cain’s blast in the fifth.

Vargas entered the night leading the American League in wins (12) and ERA (2.22). The Mariners did something that few teams have done all season: Attack Vargas’ change-up, one of the best pitches in baseball in 2017.

Seattle left fielder Ben Gamel ripped a 1-1 change-up into right-center for an RBI single in the first. Catcher Mike Zunino clubbed a first-pitch change-up out to left field in the second. And designated hitter Nelson Cruz barreled a 1-1 change-up out of the ballpark with nobody on in the third.

“They were just up,” Vargas said. “It really seemed like they came with a game plan of trying to see the change-up up and go the opposite way with it.”

The Mariners struck for six runs in the first three frames, matching the most allowed by Vargas all season. Jean Segura added another two-run homer on a fastball in the second as Vargas surrendered three homers in one start for the first time since June 27, 2014.

Vargas did not possess his sharpest stuff. His off-speed stuff danced up in the strike zone. The Mariners were not fooled. He concluded his final start before the break by allowing six runs and eight hits in five innings. He will head to his first All-Star Game with a 12-3 record and a 2.62 ERA.

And this, perhaps, explains how the Royals finished the night just a half-game out of first. Their best pitcher in 2017 was not his best, and they still won again, another victory on the West Coast.

“That’s kind of the story of how we’ve been playing lately,” Vargas said. “We’ve been able to come up with the big hits in the big moments.”

The Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez talks about being selected starting catcher for the 2017 All-Star Game, with his son, Johan, at his side.

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

5

1

1

0

0

2

.286

Bonifacio rf

5

0

1

0

0

2

.246

Cain cf

4

2

1

2

1

1

.278

Hosmer 1b

4

2

1

2

1

0

.313

Perez c

5

1

1

2

0

2

.288

Moustakas 3b

5

2

3

2

0

0

.275

Soler dh

4

0

0

0

1

3

.169

Escobar ss

5

0

1

0

0

1

.225

Gordon lf

4

1

1

1

1

3

.196

Totals

41

9

10

9

4

14

 

Seattle

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Segura ss

5

2

2

2

0

1

.343

Valencia 1b

4

0

0

0

1

1

.272

Cano 2b

5

1

1

0

0

1

.275

Cruz dh

4

1

2

2

0

0

.294

Gamel lf

4

0

2

1

0

1

.335

Haniger rf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.267

Zunino c

4

1

1

1

0

1

.234

Dyson cf

2

1

0

0

1

1

.247

Heredia ph-cf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.278

Motter 3b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.206

Totals

37

6

9

6

2

8

 

Kansas City

400

020

000

3

9

10

0

Seattle

231

000

000

0

6

9

2

E: Cano (5), Gamel (2). LOB: Kansas City 7, Seattle 3. 2B: Hosmer (20), Gamel (16). HR: Moustakas (25), off Miranda; Cain (11), off Miranda; Perez (17), off Pazos; Zunino (12), off Vargas; Segura (6), off Vargas; Cruz (15), off Vargas. RBIs: Cain 2 (30), Hosmer 2 (40), Perez 2 (55), Moustakas 2 (54), Gordon (26), Segura 2 (28), Cruz 2 (63), Gamel (28), Zunino (36). SB: Merrifield (13), Segura (9), Dyson (20). DP: Kansas City 1.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Vargas

5

8

6

6

1

4

2.62

Alexander

2

1

0

0

1

1

1.89

Soria

1

0

0

0

0

1

3.25

Minor, W, 5-1

1

0

0

0

0

1

1.91

Herrera, S, 19

1

0

0

0

0

1

4.50

Seattle

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Miranda

5

5

6

6

2

6

4.15

Zych

2 1/3

0

0

0

0

4

2.42

Rzepczynski

 1/3

1

0

0

1

1

3.31

Diaz

1 1/3

1

0

0

0

2

3.48

Pazos, L, 2-2

 1/3

2

3

1

1

0

3.15

Vincent

 2/3

1

0

0

0

1

2.20

Inherited runners-scored: Diaz 2-0, Vincent 2-1. HBP: Zych (Merrifield). WP: Vargas. Time: 3:34. Att: 15,157.

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