KANSAS CITY -- Salvador Perez's 47th home run of the season traveled 429 feet, landing -- perhaps fittingly -- in front of the Royals Hall of Fame in the bottom of the sixth inning on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
It proved to be a crucial run in the Royals’ 6-4 victory over the Indians in the first game of the final homestand of 2021 -- ultimately won on Nicky Lopez’s RBI triple in the eighth inning -- and it was capped with a curtain call for the Kansas City catcher making and still chasing history this season.
After Perez celebrated his Major League-leading home run with his teammates in the dugout, the fans at The K were still on their feet. So Perez popped out onto the warning track dirt, tipped his helmet and pumped his fists to those giving him a standing ovation.
The first thing he did after the Royals won, Perez said, was call his mom to talk about what he said was the first curtain call in his career.
“I got chills on my body,” Perez said. “[My mom] was telling me that she was crying. She only likes it when I hit homers, she doesn’t like it when I strike out. If I swing at a pitch in the dirt, she’s like, ‘Why did you swing at that pitch? You didn’t see that?’ I was excited. An exciting moment.”
With how much Perez means to the Kansas City organization and how much the community means to the All-Star backstop, it was perhaps the perfect way to celebrate the kind of season Perez is having at the plate.
“Those are special,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s important to this city. He’s important to these fans. For him to get an opportunity to acknowledge that and embrace it, it’s something that you don’t see often.
“He’s been so enjoyable to watch, so enjoyable to be around from our perspective, and I know the same from the stands.”
Perez’s 47 home runs are one shy of the Royals’ single-season home run record, set by Jorge Soler in 2019. He’s also one ahead of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and two ahead of Shohei Ohtani atop the Major League leaderboard.
Eyeing that single-season home run record, Perez said it “would mean a lot” to match Soler and perhaps surpass him this week. And Soler, who was traded to Atlanta at the Trade Deadline, wants Perez to catch him.
“I talked to him the other day to see how he was doing, and after the conversation, he was like, ‘OK, go get it. I believe you’re going to do it,’” Perez said. “If I do it, it’s going to be super exciting for me.”
Perez is one of the more dangerous home run hitters in the game, but his power wasn’t the only thing on display. When the Royals trailed, 3-0, after the top of the first inning -- after Brady Singer exited with upper right arm discomfort -- Perez walked to put a runner on for Andrew Benintendi, who hammered a two-run home run and cut the deficit to one.
“You need that spark,” Matheny said. “Salvy getting on base with a walk and handing it off to the next guy. Benny with one swing gets us back into that game. And then it’s, ‘All right, let’s go.’”
In the fourth, Perez manufactured the tying run with his legs. He hustled out a double to center field, went to third on Benintendi’s fly ball to right field and scored on Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly.
“He put in some coverage today on the ground,” Matheny said. “We talk about how much he catches, how much he plays, but the intensity that he plays the game, that’s just having respect for the game. And for our fans, too. They want to see our guys go like that.”
“It’s not about being fast, it’s about being smart,” Perez added with a grin.
Perez struck out swinging in his final at-bat, but the Royals had already scored two, when Lopez worked a 3-2 count against reliever Bryan Shaw before ripping an RBI opposite-field triple and then scoring himself on a wild pitch. The bullpen, led by Ervin Santana, locked things down for 8 2/3 innings.
When Perez arrived in the postgame Zoom room, he apologized to reporters for taking so long. He was doing his postgame routine, taking an ice bath that focused on recovering his lower body.
“I got to get ready for tomorrow,” he said.
There might only be five more games left in this Royals season, but Perez is going to want to play at 100 percent in every single one of them.