KANSAS CITY -- Whit Merrifield was ready with the water cooler for a walk-off celebration when Andrew Benintendi crossed the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning on Wednesday night, but an overturned call on review had Merrifield trudging back to the dugout, cooler in hand, as play resumed.
He didn’t have to wait long to bring it back out.
“Michael Taylor, man, he hit the ball hard today,” said Salvador Perez, who had the game-tying homer in the ninth inning. “Finally he got the big hit. That’s a good team win.”
The Royals went from getting no-hit through 4 2/3 innings against White Sox starter Lucas Giolito to Perez’s fountain-splashing homer in the bottom of the ninth against All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to walking off the White Sox for a 2-1 series lead in the four-game set. And this all came after the Royals were handed a frustrating loss Tuesday night when the bullpen coughed up a late lead.
“Just a constant swing,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Not many teams after a swing loss like that last night stay with the belief in themselves like this team does. It’s just rare to be able to pull off what we did after experiencing what we did last night in such a tough loss.”
In the situation he’s found himself in multiple times this season, Perez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to extend the game. Hendriks threw a 98-mph fastball up in the zone but over the plate, and Perez didn’t miss.
“You talk about the emotion swing, how about facing their closer and watching Salvy be Salvy,” Matheny said. “Giving us an opportunity to continue that game off a very good pitcher. He smashed that ball.”
While the Royals couldn’t end it in nine innings, they came through in the 10th with small ball. Benintendi, the automatic runner for the 10th inning, was on third base after Hanser Alberto bunted him over, and he ran on contact on Hunter Dozier’s grounder to shortstop Tim Anderson.
Anderson threw home, so Benintendi got into a rundown while Dozier made it to second base.
Initially, third base umpire CB Bucknor called Benintendi safe -- cueing the celebration -- but the White Sox immediately challenged because catcher Seby Zavala tagged Benintendi out on the belt.
“We knew they were going to challenge it, so you have to wait before you start dumping water and ice everywhere,” Taylor said. “It’s a little weird when you think it’s over and then you still have to wait for the review. Kind of spoils the celebration a little bit.”
It wasn’t spoiled for long. Taylor fouled off two cutters from reliever Ryan Burr before lining the third one up the middle. Dozier slid home safely, avoiding the tag at home to seal the win. And this time, the Royals could celebrate fully.
“Definition of a team win right there,” starter Kris Bubic said. “We’re in a tight one the whole game and then to turn it on late like that, against their guys, too, was huge. Time and time again, Salvy seems to come up clutch in those situations. And then Michael T. finishing off there was awesome.”
Kansas City needed just a few runs of offense to win because of starter Bubic’s quality outing. The young lefty tossed the Royals’ fourth consecutive quality start, quieting the White Sox through six innings with just two runs allowed in the fifth -- one of which came on a rundown that got the out but allowed the second run to score.
Bubic handed it off to a lights-out Royals bullpen, which held the White Sox hitless through four innings. Scott Barlow (3-3) navigated around the automatic runner and a walk in the 10th to set up the Royals’ fifth walk-off victory this season and 26th comeback win.
After finishing the first half 36-53, the Royals are now a Major League best 8-3 out of the All-Star break.
“Baseball’s crazy,” Perez said. “Anything can happen, and you don’t even believe that. Like how does that happen? That’s why no matter the situation, no matter the score, just play hard until the last out. After the game is over, if you win, good. If you lost, ‘OK, get ready for tomorrow.’ So a situation like that, game like that, it makes the clubhouse happy. Little bit of energy. You guys know the first half was tough, but we play hard every day.”