Salvy's slams highlight 'MVP-style' season

August 28th, 2021

SEATTLE -- It was almost as if you knew it was going to happen.

For the second consecutive game, came to the plate with the bases loaded and the Royals trailing the Mariners.

And for the second consecutive game, Perez crushed a grand slam.

One quick and powerful swing against Mariners starter Logan Gilbert in the fourth inning on Friday night turned a four-run deficit into a tie game, a major moment in the Royals' eventful 8-7 win in 12 innings on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.

“It’s incredible to watch every night,” starter Kris Bubic said. “He’s doing something that’s monumental every night. He’s that type of player, and he’s built for those moments.”

Perez became the 25th player all-time to hit grand slams in back-to-back games and the first since Milwaukee’s Tyler Saladino did it in 2019. The Royals have now hit grand slams in three consecutive games -- two Perez blasts and Whit Merrifield’s on Wednesday against the Astros -- joining five other teams to do so. They're also the first club to hit slams in three straight games since the Padres hit grand slams in four consecutive games last season.

Perez’s fifth grand slam of his career was his 36th home run of the season. Eleven of those have come at designated hitter, and the American League single-season home run record for a player who hit all of them at catcher is Ivan Rodriguez’s 35 in 1999, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Among AL players who have played at least 75 percent of their games in a season behind the plate, Perez’s 36 homers this season are the second most, trailing only Carlton Fisk’s 37 in 1985.

With six homers in his last eight games, Perez is now on pace for 46 home runs this season, which would be two shy of the Royals’ single-season record set by Jorge Soler in 2019.

Perez’s grand slam on Thursday night was a sinker in the zone from reliever Joe Smith. His slam on Friday was a slider on the outside part of the zone from Gilbert.

He singled in the sixth inning as part of his 3-for-5 night on Friday, marking his 300th career multi-hit game -- 12 such games shy of matching Eric Hosmer (312) for the 10th-most in club history. Given his hot streak, it seemed risky for the Mariners to face him in the eighth with a runner on, but he flied to center. And when he came up in the 11th, Seattle intentionally walked him.

"He's very aggressive, so you've got to make pitches,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “If you really leave anything in the strike zone as hot as he's going right now, he gets a good swing on it. ... He's got big power. He's having a great year. But you talk about it. You don't want to let that guy beat you, and the last couple nights he's gotten us."

The late-career resurgence Perez is enjoying has built up this conversation over the course of the season, but it seems the catcher has cemented himself in the MVP race -- at the very least in the top 10. After Friday night, Perez is tied for second in the Majors with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in home runs, both trailing Shohei Ohtani.

Perez is also doing it at a premium position, and he seems to come up big for the Royals whenever it’s needed: 14 of Perez’s 36 blasts have produced the go-ahead run for Kansas City.

“We talked about how we sometimes almost take it for granted,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re watching an MVP-style season, what’s going on here with this guy. The fans -- you should hear these people every time he walks by. They’re just so blown away at how one guy can be so dangerous and have such a big impact two days in a row. 

“He’s in a unique space with what he’s been able to do and doing it on both sides of the ball.”