Salvador Perez: Don't disrespect the Royals
A few days from now, the Royals might reflect on Saturday night’s game and wonder whether this was the turning point.
If this was the moment that Salvador Perez ignited a reversal of fortune, simply by letting an opponent know he wasn’t pleased with the way he celebrated a leadoff home run.
In a 5-2 win over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium, there was no doubt the moment took on such significance.
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson drilled Royals starter Eric Skoglund’s fifth pitch of the game into the stands in left-center field. Somewhere between Anderson watching the home run ball travel 414 feet and crossing home plate, Anderson began to chirp.
Perez was bothered. He recalled Anderson doing the same thing on opening day after he hit two homers in what became the first of the Royals’ 20 losses to start this season.
But he couldn’t say anything then. He was on the disabled list because of a newly-torn ligament in his left knee, a week away from being allowed to begin baseball activities again.
Perez bit his tongue until Anderson crossed home plate. The pair exchanged words. Anderson patted Perez on the stomach and vanished into the White Sox dugout.
But in the bottom of the first inning, when Perez moved to second base on Lucas Duda’s walk, the conversation blew up.
Within moments, Perez and Anderson were face to face, standing at second base as both benches spilled onto the infield. At one point, Jorge Soler wrapped his arm around Perez to restrain him.
“I don’t have any problems with the guy hitting a homer, taking a couple of steps, walk two steps and keep running. But when you start to get loud, to say some bad words ... I don’t like that,” Perez said.
When the teams were forced back to their respective dugouts and bullpens, Anderson and Perez shook off the argument and shook hands.
Thus began the Royals’ rally. Anderson booted a sharp grounder hit by Royals outfielder Abraham Almonte, which allowed the game-tying run to score and kept the bases loaded.
Alex Gordon then ripped a two-run single up the right side of the infield and into center field to give the Royals a 3-1 lead.
Later, Soler knocked in another Royals run against White Sox starter Dylan Covey by stinging a double into the left-field corner. The Royals added a fifth run in the eighth.
“We sure played good after that (argument),” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
But to reduce this victory to one raucous argument in the middle of the field would be unfair to Skoglund, who pitched the best game of his major-league career in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader, which began with the Royals being shut out for the first time this season.
After the home run, Skoglund retired 15 straight hitters. He struck out nine in seven innings, both career highs. He allowed only two hits and a walk. Skoglund threw 10 pitches or fewer in four innings and won his first major-league game since his debut last May.
For a rookie who was thrust into the starting rotation late because of Nathan Karns’ ongoing attempt to return from right elbow inflammation, this start marked a turning point in his career.
In the time between those victories, Skoglund posted an 18.18 ERA (33 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings) over nine appearances.
He’d made progress in his most recent start, a no-decision in Detroit where he found himself nibbling too often at the corners of the strike zone instead of attacking hitters with consistency.
He seemed to have overcome any confidence issues on Saturday.
“My confidence will always be there,” Skoglund said. “Even when I had some bad outings, I felt like I was close. I just try to keep the game as close as I can.”
The Royals won for the first time since beating the Tigers last Sunday in Detroit. They improved to 6-20 as they snapped a five-game losing streak, and Kelvin Herrera pitched in a game where he could finally record a save.
As far as Perez is concerned, the argument with Anderson is over. But the Royals and White Sox will face each other in 13 more games this season, including Sunday afternoon. Anderson, who earlier this week was called out by Astros pitcher Justin Verlander for his exuberance, will likely play a part in many of those.
“I got excited. They didn’t like it, but it’s not about them. It’s about my teammates,” Anderson told reporters in the White Sox clubhouse. “I play the game with a lot of energy and confidence. I’m not going to change. It’s not the first incident, and it won’t be the last.”
Perez said: “I’m not the kind of guy who’s like 'OK, we’re gonna hit you.' No. We talked. I don’t want him to do that again, because we’ve gotta make some decision on that. That’s the only thing. But we’re gonna be fine.
“Whatever happened tonight is done. Tomorrow is a different day. We’ve gotta be professional in that, too.”