Perez delivers clutch double, seals win for Royals
Chen's stellar outing nearly spoiled when Davis gives up two in eighth
KANSAS CITY -- When Salvador Perez comes to bat in a crucial situation, it's generally a good thing for the Royals.
"He's a clutch player," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "The best definition of a clutch player is a guy that can rise to the occasion without raising his emotions. ... He stays steady and makes things happen."
That's exactly what Perez did Saturday, drilling a two-out double down the left-field line to score Alex Gordon in the eighth inning with the deciding run in a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
That second straight win over the White Sox got the Royals' young season even with a 2-2 record against American League Central foes. They lost their first two games at Detroit.
Other winning touches were provided by left-hander Bruce Chen, who was strong into the seventh inning; Billy Butler, who knocked in two runs, and right fielder Nori Aoki, who made a game-saving catch.
"That was a tremendous play, to save that game from being cracked open right there," Yost said.
The White Sox had just gained a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth with two runs against reliever Wade Davis. With two on and two out, Aoki ran down Alexei Ramirez's line drive as he sprinted toward the fence.
"I knew in that situation we couldn't give up any more runs there so for me personally, that was the play I was most happy with today," Aoki said. "I was just focused there and I felt like I got a good jump. The sun was kind of in my eyes but I thought I had it all the way."
With the tie preserved, the Royals appeared to be going nowhere in their half against left-hander Scott Downs. Eric Hosmer struck out and, after Butler walked, pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson was thrown out stealing.
Then Gordon had two strikes on him.
"Two strikes against a tough lefty like that and I've been trying to work on my two-strike approach and really make something happen -- and that's what happened," Gordon said. "So tough lefty and just able to get a good swing on it."
Gordon put a double into right-center field and arrived at the bag, clapping with anticipation as Perez stalked to the plate.
"He's usually doing damage so I was ready to get moving because I knew in that kind of situation, he's going to come through and I was going to do everything I can to get to home plate," Gordon said. "So I was ready to go."
Downs was replaced by right-hander Maikel Cleto, who had been in Spring Training briefly with the Royals. So briefly that Perez didn't know much about him.
"I'd never seen Cleto before so he threw me a fastball at like 97 [mph], that's what the scoreboard said," Perez said, recalling strike one. "So then he threw me a slider, a little bit off to the side, and I saw it pretty good."
The ball rolled deep into the left-field corner while Gordon sprinted to the plate to break the tie. Perez got to third on a passed ball but was stranded there. That left the one-run lead and the ninth inning to closer Greg Holland. He created some anxiety by issuing a leadoff walk followed by a stolen base but the crisis evaporated with two strikeouts and a grounder.
"You never want to put the tying run on," Holland said. "Unfortunately it happens from time to time."
Earlier the bright, sunny afternoon was going well for the Royals and the biased, blue-tinged crowd of 21,463.
Chen was very solid, going into the seventh inning with just one unearned run against him. Meantime the Royals had scored three runs against lefty John Danks, who'd come into the game with a 6-0 record against them.
However, what loomed as a very large fourth inning shrank into a modest two-run event for the Royals.
"When we've got the bases loaded and one out there, we want to punch runs across," Butler said. "They're easy ones."
Or not, as it turned out.
Danks gave up three successive singles to Omar Infante, Hosmer and Butler, pushing one run home with nobody out. Gordon dropped a single into right field, just in front of diving right fielder Dayan Viciedo.
But Hosmer feared a catch, hesitated between second and third and then had what he called a miscommunication with the team's new third-base coach, Dale Sveum. Rounding third base, Hosmer got hung up and was tagged out in a rundown.
"My first peek, I saw his hand and saw him point so I figured the ball got away from somebody or something like that and I just saw the hand and went," Hosmer said. "It wasn't the right thing to do."
So that was one out. Danks proceeded to walk both Perez and Mike Moustakas to force in a second run. But that was it because he then struck out both Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.
The Royals added a run in the fifth on Aoki's double, his stolen base and Butler's sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead And, in the last two innings, things shook out in the home team's favor.
"It was a big one for our team," Hosmer said. "There are not many games where our bullpen's going to blow a lead like that, so for the offense to respond like that and all with two outs, that's a huge win."