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Clutch Perez embodies resilient Royals

Catcher tags runner in 10th, doubles in 12th as KC gains playoff ground

SEATTLE -- The game almost ended in the Seattle half of the 10th inning. Fly ball to left and the Mariners' Kyle Seager tagged up and headed for home. Alex Gordon caught the ball and fired to catcher Salvador Perez.

Out. Double play. The Royals survived.

"It was with Alex Gordon's golden arm and a great tag play by Salvy," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

With that reprieve, the resilient Royals beat the Mariners in 12 innings on Perez's RBI double, 6-5, on a chilly Monday night at Safeco Field. That pushed the Royals to within three games of Cleveland for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.

"Every game, from now to the end of the season, is important for us," Perez said. "We don't think about what's happening with the other teams, we just need a win. We can't control the other teams, the only thing we can control is our game."

This was their second straight extra-inning victory and gave them a 14-7 record in their September stretch run. But time is running short; they have just six games left.

For the Royals, there are two games left at Seattle and four at Chicago. Cleveland, idle on Monday, has two games left against Chicago and four at Minnesota. Tampa Bay is the Wild Card leader, one game ahead of Cleveland.

This series opener kept 12,790 fans in a constant state of flux. There were twists and turns, ups and downs.

"It's a roller-coaster ride," Yost said.

Pitching hopeful Yordano Ventura was superb again in his second big league start, replicating his first outing with 5 2/3 innings and just one run allowed. He had a 2-1 lead when he left the game.

"Ventura, man, wow! What an exhibition he put on out there," Yost said. "He and Wade Davis were sharp; everybody else wasn't real sharp tonight but we got through it."

A missed line drive by Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson helped the Mariners surge ahead, 3-2, in the seventh inning. Dyson rushed in for Mike Zunino's scorcher but it went past his glove and rolled away for a three-base error.

"The ball moved on me. As I went down and kind of changed eye levels, I just straight-up booted it. I'm the reason why we're here this late," he said after the 4-hour 12-minute marathon. "I told the fellows I must have hacked off everybody on offense 'cause we came in banging right away."

Indeed, the Royals came up with three runs in the eighth inning that included RBI singles by Emilio Bonifacio and Perez for a 5-3 lead. That seemed sufficient, especially with the usually strong setup talents of right-hander Luke Hochevar coming into view.

Boom, boom. Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders hammered back-to-back home runs and darned if the score wasn't, just like that, 5-5.

"We had the lead and those two home runs set us back but we fought like crazy and came back. They did a good job of picking me up," Hochevar said. "We could have done without giving up back-to-back homers, but at this point of the year, winning is the bottom line."

So the game evolved into the bottom of the 10th and Seager led off with a double off lefty Francisley Bueno and advanced to third on right fielder Justin Maxwell's error. Kendrys Morales was intentionally walked and in from the bullpen came Davis. Yost had a plan for him: Get Gutierrez out, intentionally walk the hot-hitting Saunders to load the bases and set up a double play.

"Got the double play," Davis said. "Not conventional, but we got it done."

This wasn't any of your routine infield double plays. Oh, no, because pinch-hitter Endy Chavez hit a line drive to Gordon in left field, a game-ending sacrifice fly in the making.

"First of all, Wade came in and got the strikeout and that was huge. It really gave us the opportunity to do a lot of things with the bases loaded," Gordon said. "With Chavez, we played with him for a long time and we've seen him in batting practice. I knew he liked to go that way and I knew there was a chance I was going to have to make that play and I kind of visualized it before it happened. Luckily, I've got Salvy back there who always makes a good play."

Gordon's throw took Perez away from the plate a bit but the big catcher grabbed the ball and dove at the sliding Seager.

"Seager left pretty fast," Perez said. "I caught the ball and he took a pretty good slide and I just put my glove at home plate and he touched my glove. The umpire was in good position to see everything."

Seager angrily protested plate umpire Vic Carapazza's call.

"I saw Gordon take a couple steps back, so I went for it and it didn't go our way, I guess," Seager said. "Obviously by my reaction I thought we had done enough to win, but they battled back."

In the Royals' 12th, left-hander Lucas Luetge walked Gordon and, after a sacrifice bunt and a popout, he also walked Johnny Giavotella. Perez drilled a double down the left-field line to score Gordon and, although Giavotella was out at the plate on the play, the Royals had a one-run lead.

Perfect chance for closer Greg Holland to record his 45th save to match the franchise record attained by Dan Quisenberry in 1983 and by Jeff Montgomery in 1993.

But Holland created a big problem, walking the first two batters he faced. What happened there?

"I don't really know. I'd like to tell you we did it on purpose but we didn't," he deadpanned.

But then Holland got a flyout and struck out the next two batters, ending the game with a third-strike slider on a 3-2 pitch to Saunders.

Holland's arm can be pretty golden, too.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
Read More: Kansas City Royals, Yordano Ventura