Salvy hits 41st HR, but Singer steals the show

Right-hander's 7 scoreless helps KC to a season-series win over White Sox

September 6th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- One of the goals the Royals had entering 2021 was to play the White Sox better after winning just one of 10 games against the American League Central juggernaut last season.

The Royals will end this year with a season-series win against the team that is on its way to winning the division title.

pitched seven scoreless innings to lead the Royals to a 6-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won the season series, 10-9.

If the White Sox hold onto their 9 1/2-game lead in the division, this season would mark the first time the Royals had a winning record against an AL Central champion since going 10-9 against Detroit in 2013.

“I think as we went through [last season], who did we not represent ourselves well against -- it would have been this team,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We didn’t play well. But now looking back over the season against them, we played some really good games. I believe when our guys play our style of baseball, we’re putting pressure on the bases, playing good defense and most importantly, it’s the starting pitching.

“And it doesn’t hurt to have our catcher on the field doing what he does. It was a pretty good representation of the kind of baseball we believe we can play.”

The Royals' catcher was , who launched his 41st home run of the season, a three-run, opposite-field blast in the bottom of the first inning. Perez hit his 40th home run on Saturday on a 98.8 mph fastball on the inside part of the zone that he yanked over the left-field fence. His 41st home run came on a 99 mph fastball on the black that Perez powered 448 feet over the right-center-field fence.

“Hopefully they keep throwing me fastballs,” Perez said, leaning back in his chair and grinning. “I think it was a good pitch. I just put the barrel on it, pretty good swing, and I hit it out.”

Perez was nonchalant about the home run. Matheny was more impressed.

“Most of us could stand in right field with a fungo and not hit it up there,” Matheny said. “When it came off the bat, it looked different. I don’t know how else to say it. I’m sure glad he’s on our side.”

Perez moved into a tie with Amos Otis for third place in franchise history with 193 career home runs, and he has now set a new record for home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium with 22. That breaks a tie with Jorge Soler (2019), Dean Palmer (1998) and Chili Davis ('97).

With 26 games to go this season, Perez is seven homers away from tying Soler’s single-season home run record (48).

“I don’t know what else to say about the guy,” Singer said. “It’s like an auto-homer now. It’s unbelievable. And to have him behind the plate, too, the knowledge he has, it’s unbelievable.”

Perez helped Singer navigate through a lineup full of dangerous hitters to turn in his best start of the season. He allowed just four hits and struck out six. He didn’t walk a batter, and he relied on his defense with weak contact, averaging 90.2 mph exit velocity with all his pitches Sunday.

The focus for Singer this season has been incorporating his changeup with his sinker and slider. But when he had the command that he did on his sinker and the bite that he did on his slider like Sunday, he hardly needed the third pitch.

“You could tell by some of the reactions, how much late movement [the fastball] had,” Matheny said. “And that really is an example of why a guy gets away from a third pitch. When the fastball is that effective, and when the slider is that effective, there’s usually a tendency to look in the mirror and realize you don’t need anything else that day. … The sinker and slider were that good.”

But here’s where Singer took a step forward -- and how Perez helped him do it. Singer did throw two changeups, both to left-handed hitting Gavin Sheets. The first was a ball in the third inning. The second was on Singer’s 106th and final pitch of the day. Locked in a long at-bat with Sheets, Singer had thrown five sliders in a row, then two sinkers, followed by another slider.

On the ninth pitch, Perez called for a changeup. Singer had shook off the pitch earlier in the at-bat, but this time, he obliged.

“He didn’t want to throw that pitch at the end, but his catcher didn’t give him another option,” Matheny said. “He tried shaking it off, and it was a mandatory pitch. Love to see that happen. Really good catchers do that, and they’re going to help guys think outside the box when they need the help.”

Sheets rolled over the pitch to second base for the groundout, ending the inning and Singer’s gem.

“My gut feeling is, he hasn’t seen a changeup yet, so let’s throw one,” Perez said. “So I told Singer that I want that pitch, just believe and throw. And he threw a pretty good changeup, ground ball, end the inning. Good pitch in the right moment.”