Royals

With one big swing, Salvador Perez leads Royals to 5-3 win over Athletics, sweeping series

The Royals consider Salvador Perez the best catcher in the American League, and his recurring spot on the junior circuit’s All-Star team verifies their belief. On Sunday afternoon, as Kansas City swept Oakland with a 5-3 victory, Perez unleashed the decisive blow to help drag a depleted team toward their fifth win in their last six games. It was the 500th hit of Perez’s young career.
The Royals consider Salvador Perez the best catcher in the American League, and his recurring spot on the junior circuit’s All-Star team verifies their belief. On Sunday afternoon, as Kansas City swept Oakland with a 5-3 victory, Perez unleashed the decisive blow to help drag a depleted team toward their fifth win in their last six games. It was the 500th hit of Perez’s young career. The Associated Press

Salvador Perez swiveled his eyes toward a team official and waited for the news. No dice, he was told. The Royals tried, but could not retrieve the baseball Perez walloped over the left-field fence for the 500th hit of his young career.

The fan who allegedly caught it tossed a dummy ball to the liaisons from Kansas City and scampered away.

“That’s OK!” Perez said. “I’ve got the lineup.”

He spoke like a man aware of all the milestones in front of him, the track he is taking toward the rarefied air of baseball greatness. The Royals consider Perez the best catcher in the American League, and his recurring spot on its All-Star team verifies their belief. On Sunday afternoon, as Kansas City swept Oakland with a 5-3 victory, Perez unleashed the decisive blow to help drag a depleted team toward its fifth win in six games.

Perez reached the mark in 471 games, an expedient pace for a catcher. He thrives upon excellent hand-eye coordination, enough power to offset his impatience and the boundless enthusiasm that makes it nearly impossible for manager Ned Yost to rest him.

“He’s a guy that has really, from the minute he’s got here, has been a threat, and has been a dangerous offensive performer,” Yost said.

The Royals, 44-28, prospered even though Eric Hosmer left early because of a sprained ring finger, Alcides Escobar did the same because of a broken nail-bed on an index finger, a hamstring injury left Lorenzo Cain unable to play the field, and Greg Holland rested after pitching the last two days.

The club flew to Houston for a showdown with the leaders in the American League West starting today.

Perez launched his two-run blast in the eighth inning against reliever Edward Mujica. The homer was Perez’s 12th of the season, and it created distance between the two clubs, expanding a one-run Kansas City lead to three. The insurance proved useful: Kelvin Herrera yielded a run in the bottom of the inning.

The Athletics entered this series on a five-game winning streak. Facing the Royals, the club that bounced them from the playoffs last October, they combusted. Kansas City waited until the sixth inning to blemish Oakland starter Jesse Chavez but grabbed its first lead of the game, thanks in part to more examples of defensive incompetence from the Athletics.

With runners at the corners and one out, Perez chopped a grounder toward rookie third baseman Max Muncy, who declined to concede the run. The decision backfired.

Rather than throw to first, he whipped the ball on the run toward the plate. catcher Stephen Vogt jumped but could only deflect the throw. As Mike Moustakas scored, both runners moved into scoring position. From there, Alex Rios tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Omar Infante contributed a go-ahead single.

“Two guys that have been struggling a little bit,” Yost said, “with two big situations there where they produced runs.”

The three-run rally granted Jeremy Guthrie, 6-5 with a 5.68 ERA, a chance to record a victory. He struck out seven batters and reached a milestone of his own with 1,000 career strikeouts.

“It’s 1,000 more than I thought I would have had 10 years ago,” Guthrie said. “So it’s a great accomplishment. I’m happy to be able to get there and have the endurance to be able to get to that number.”

Oakland scored twice against Guthrie. Both runs came in the third. In an uncharacteristic showing, the defense suffered lapses in the process.

With a runner at first base, Vogt ripped a single between Jarrod Dyson and Alex Gordon. Dyson cut the ball off, but his throw sailed over the cutoff man. Eric Sogard, the lead runner, reached third base and Vogt advanced to second.

In the next at-bat, Ben Zobrist drove a sacrifice fly to right field. Sogard cruised home, and Vogt took third. Up came Josh Reddick, a seven-year veteran who entered the at-bat with 499 hits in his career. The Royals presented him a gift in the form of No. 500.

Guthrie fooled Reddick into swinging at a shin-high cutter. A harmless fly traveled into left field. Escobar trotted backward. Gordon charged toward the diamond. Escobar appeared to lose track of the baseball in the sun. A single dropped a few feet to his right.

“This stadium is a tough place for fly balls,” Escobar said. “The ball moves a lot. I was going back, Alex Gordon coming in. Nobody said nothing. He didn’t say nothing. I didn’t say nothing. I was looking on this side — and the ball was on the other side.”

Kansas City battled back in the sixth. In the eighth, Perez removed all doubt. He detonated a waist-high, 89-mph fastball with the count full.

Long ago, Yost exhausted the stream of superlatives necessary to describe Perez. In his mind, the only player comparable is St. Louis centerpiece Yadier Molina. Perez’s teammates speak to his apparently limitless stores of energy, the daily cornerstone of this club.

“He plays like he’s 15 in terms of his energy level and his excitement,” Guthrie said. “And (he plays) like a 20-year veteran in the way he commands presence and operates behind the dish, and with the pitchers. And so he’s a great asset for all of us.”

Rios debuted in the majors in 2004. He called Perez’s skills behind the plate “as good as I’ve ever seen.”

“He controls the game very well,” Rios said.

The cost to sign Salvador Perez out of Venezuela was $65,000. The Royals brought him into their farm system in 2006. He spent five years in the minors before he debuted in Kansas City. Along the way, he fantasized about what afternoons like this might feel like.

So, no, Perez did not have the baseball as a souvenir. But here he was, perhaps the finest catcher in baseball, the lynchpin of the American League’s best team. He had homered for his 500th hit. Was that how he dreamed it up?

Salvador Perez grinned from ear to ear.

“One hundred percent.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.


Royals 5, Athletics 3

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Escobar ss

4

0

1

0

0

0

.281

Colon ss

1

0

0

0

0

1

.253

Moustakas 3b

4

1

1

0

1

0

.322

Morales 1b

5

1

1

0

0

1

.291

Hosmer dh

3

0

0

0

0

1

.290

b-Cain ph-dh

1

1

1

0

0

0

.293

Perez c

4

2

1

3

0

0

.271

Gordon lf

3

0

0

0

1

1

.271

Rios rf

3

0

0

1

0

1

.211

Infante 2b

4

0

1

1

0

1

.237

Dyson cf

4

0

2

0

0

1

.267

Totals

36

5

8

5

2

7

Oakland

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Burns cf

5

0

2

0

0

0

.324

Sogard ss

3

1

1

0

0

0

.255

a-Semien ph-ss

2

0

1

0

0

0

.262

Vogt c

5

1

2

0

0

2

.300

Zobrist 2b

3

1

2

1

0

0

.256

Reddick rf

4

0

1

1

0

1

.287

B.Butler dh

3

0

1

0

1

1

.246

I.Davis 1b

3

0

0

1

0

2

.264

Muncy 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.203

Fuld lf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.213

Totals

36

3

11

3

1

10

Kansas City

000

003

020

5

8

0

Oakland

002

000

010

3

11

2

a-grounded out for Sogard in the 7th.

E: Muncy (6), Semien (23). LOB: Kansas City 7, Oakland 9. 2B: Moustakas (16), Burns (8), Semien (15), B.Butler (12). HR: S.Perez (12), off Mujica. RBIs: S.Perez 3 (33), Rios (11), Infante (23), Zobrist (29), Reddick (46), I.Davis (14). SF: Rios, Zobrist, I.Davis.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 3 (K.Morales 2, J.Dyson); Oakland 4 (Reddick, Vogt 2, Muncy). RISP: Kansas City 2 for 6; Oakland 1 for 6.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Guthrie W, 6-5

6

7

2

2

1

7

103

5.68

Morales

1

1

0

0

0

0

13

2.97

Herrera

1

2

1

1

0

1

17

2.10

Davis S, 9

1

1

0

0

0

2

23

0.27

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Chavez L, 4-7

5.2

6

3

3

2

4

108

3.02

Rodriguez

1.1

0

0

0

0

0

19

4.12

Mujica

1

2

2

2

0

1

22

4.09

Abad

1

0

0

0

0

2

17

4.66

Holds: F. Morales (4), Herrera (12). Inherited runners-scored: Fe.Rodriguez 2-0. IBB: off Chavez (A.Gordon). WP: F.Morales.

Umpires: Home, Jim Reynolds; First, Manny Gonzalez; Second, Paul Schrieber; Third, Fieldin Culbreth. Time: 2:58. Att: 22,477.

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