Royals rough up Rodón as Minor twirls gem

May 16th, 2021

All Carlos Rodón could do was watch.

The White Sox lefty had just thrown a 1-2 fastball high and out of the zone to Royals catcher in the third inning Saturday night, a pitch most hitters would likely take to get the count to 2-2. Unfortunately for him, Perez isn’t most hitters.

Perez got ahold of the pitch and knocked it over the wall in right, driving in Kansas City right fielder Whit Merrifield and first baseman Carlos Santana for his second three-run shot in as many days. As Perez began his trot out of the box, Rodón threw his hands in the air and looked on in disbelief that Perez took him deep on that particular pitch.

“He's got a lot of Vladimir Guerrero in him,” Merrifield said, comparing Perez to the notorious bad-ball-hitting Hall of Famer. “He gets extended so well, he can hit bad pitches, he can do damage on bad pitches. … He can do damage anywhere in the zone, and that's what makes him dangerous.”

“I see it high, I let it fly,” said Perez, who is day to day after leaving in the eighth with groin tightness, but was already pushing to be in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale.

The home run highlighted the all-around great performance put on by the Royals as they beat the White Sox, 5-1, and earned at least a split of the four-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field. Seven different Kansas City batters combined for 11 hits, and starting pitcher Mike Minor tossed his first quality start of the season to earn the win.

It’s been quite a while since the Royals looked like a team that could contend for the American League Central division crown.

On May 1, Kansas City sat in first place in the AL Central with the best record in baseball, but the team immediately hit a wall. The Royals lost each of the next 11 games and 12 of 13, falling to third place in the division ahead of only the Tigers and the Twins, who had the two worst records in the Majors.

Things didn’t look great for Kansas City going into Saturday, facing the team that usurped them for the best record in baseball with one of the AL’s top starting pitchers on the mound. It has been an uphill battle lately for the Royals, whose May struggles dropped them to four games under .500.

Instead of mailing things in, however, Kansas City feasted on Rodón.

Merrifield nearly started the game with a home run, instead settling for a leadoff double that bounced off the top of the wall in left. Santana followed up with a walk, and after Rodón got Perez to strike out on a foul tip, Jorge Soler singled Merrifield home to give the Royals the early 1-0 lead. For his part, Minor kept the momentum going in Kansas City’s favor, allowing just a walk in the bottom of the frame and needing only 14 pitches to get out of it.

“Those guys get runs for me, it's [a] shutdown inning [on my end],” Minor said. “You're trying to go out there, get a quick inning, get the guys back in and get them up to the plate again. That's always an emphasis. When they score runs, we need to put a zero on the board.”

The third inning mirrored the first, with Merrifield doubling and Santana drawing a walk to start it off. That led to Perez’s big blast, the 161st of his career. It broke a tie with Frank White for the sixth-most home runs in franchise history. Those early runs ballooned Rodón’s MLB-best 0.58 ERA to 1.64 before he recorded an out in the third, and they were enough to give Kansas City an insurmountable lead.

The runs also backed Minor in his best start of the season. He pitched seven innings for the first time all year -- the furthest he’s gone in a game since he pitched six on April 3 -- and struck out seven Chicago batters while allowing just two hits and a run.

“Minor was special tonight,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Had a real nice game plan and executed it very well. … It's hard to ask [for] much more.”

It has been an uphill battle lately for Kansas City. But after two weeks of frustration, perhaps a win like Saturday’s could be enough to get the Royals back on track.