KANSAS CITY -- Baseball suddenly is becoming fun again at Kauffman Stadium.Trailing by a run and having lost starter Jorge Lopez to injury, the Royals clawed back in the ninth inning and tied the score on Whit Merrifield's single. Moments later with the bases loaded and facing a five-man infield,
KANSAS CITY -- Baseball suddenly is becoming fun again at Kauffman Stadium.
Trailing by a run and having lost starter Jorge Lopez to injury, the Royals clawed back in the ninth inning and tied the score on Whit Merrifield's single. Moments later with the bases loaded and facing a five-man infield, catcher Salvador Perez blasted a 3-2 slider from Trevor Hildenberger into the center-field seats for a walk-off grand slam to beat the Twins, 8-4, on Friday night.
It was the Royals' third walk-off win this month and fourth in their last 13 home games. And the Royals have won 12 of their last 14 at Kauffman Stadium.
"I was just sitting there in the ninth thinking that it's getting fun again," Royals manager Ned Yost said, smiling. "It wasn't a whole lot of fun before. But you just keep your head up and keep working."
Lopez left the game in the fifth inning with a left rib contusion after a collision earlier with third baseman Hunter Dozier on an infield chopper. X-rays were negative and Lopez will have an MRI Saturday morning.
But the Royals rallied in Lopez's absence. After Merrifield's single, red-hot Raul Mondesi, who had homered and stolen a base earlier in the game, rifled a single to right, sending Merrifield to third and forcing Twins manager Paul Molitor into a corner with one out and the winning run at third.
"Again, Mondesi is having a great year," Yost said. "Really, I don't know what else to say about Mondi. He's working hard. Progressing. He's doing a great job. I'm real proud of him."
Molitor opted to intentionally walk Alex Gordon, and he also went with five infielders and two outfielders for Perez, a move that Perez admitted he didn't even notice at first.
"I didn't think about that [five infielders]," Perez said. "I didn't see it until a few pitches later. But I just tried to hit the ball. I was sitting on a slider."
Hildenberger threw a first-pitch fastball right down the middle. Perez, a notorious first-pitch swinger, took it for a strike.
"But then Salvy really settled down on three straight breaking balls and fouled one off," Yost said. "Then he got one he could handle and drove it into the night."
The 3-2 slider hung over the plate. Perez knew he'd won the game when he made contact. It was homer No. 26 for Perez, one shy of his career high.
"As soon as I hit it, I thought, OK, we're going to bring him in," Perez said. "There was no one in center field. Then I saw the ball gone. I was more excited. I barreled it pretty good."
The walk-off grand slam was the Royals' first since Paulo Orlando did the same in 2015. It was the Royals' sixth walk-off grand slam in franchise history.
"It's fun again," Perez said. "You never know what's going to happen. You just need to play hard and see what happens."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Right-hander Ben Lively, claimed off waivers from the Phillies this month, made his Royals debut in the eighth inning. Lively tossed a scoreless inning, giving up one hit and striking out two.
HE SAID IT
"I didn't feel anything. I was super excited." -- Perez, on being the victim of his own Salvy Splash for the second straight night
Right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-8, 4.92 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals in Game 2 of the series against Minnesota on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT at Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander Chase De Jong (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will pitch for the Twins. Kennedy came off the disabled list last Sunday and gave up one run over six innings to these same Twins. Kennedy is winless in 17 consecutive starts, the longest streak in Royals history within one season.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.