Salvy shows young Royals how it's done with clutch homer

Team's anchor starts day by celebrating Hosmer's return to Kauffman

August 5th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- The chants poured down from around Kauffman Stadium -- “SALVY, SALVY” -- but they didn’t have enough time to get louder and clearer because Salvador Perez turned the chants into a roar.

On the first pitch Perez saw from Red Sox reliever Darwinzon Hernandez in the seventh inning -- moments after Bobby Witt Jr. hit a go-ahead single -- Perez hit a frozen rope of a home run to the left-field foul pole and pushed the Royals to a 7-3 series-opening win on Thursday night.

The ball came off Perez’s bat at 110 mph. It only traveled 346 feet, a true wall-scraper and cause of an ensuing dispute over where it landed. The ball bounced on top of the wall by the left-field foul pole, careening off the wall and back into the outfield. As Perez rounded first base, third-base umpire Gabe Morales signaled a home run.

“What did I see? A homer,” Perez deadpanned. “I don’t have any questions. I looked at the umpire, said it was a homer. It was a homer. That’s what I see.”

“Salvy called a homer, so I believed him,” manager Mike Matheny added. “He says he’s really fresh. Looked like it today. That ball was smashed.”

A lengthy crew-chief review confirmed the call: Perez rocketed his 15th home run of the season, at yet another crucial time. Perez had hit the tie-breaking single in the fifth to back starter Kris Bubic, who tossed his fourth consecutive quality start with six innings of two-run ball, but the Red Sox tied the game in the top of the seventh.

Nicky Lopez’s leadoff walk in a left-on-left matchup against Hernandez in the beginning of the frame set up the four-run and game-winning inning.

“It’s like a script,” said MJ Melendez, who hit a leadoff home run and singled in the seventh. “I feel like every time we’re in a big situation like that, Salvy’s always coming in clutch to get the job done.”

As much as the second half of the season is about the Royals’ rookies settling in and adjusting to the Major Leagues, let’s not forget their leader, the anchor behind the plate. And he’s playing like he’s got something to prove.

In seven games since returning from thumb surgery -- which had him out just five weeks instead of the eight typically needed -- Perez has a .956 OPS with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

“Maybe whatever the doctor put in my thumb helps me stay through the ball,” Perez said, full of jokes postgame. “I don’t know. I like to compete. You guys know I’m aggressive. I like to play hard. And the most important thing is trying to win the game.”

Eight of the 13 position players the Royals have on their roster are 25 or younger, as Kansas City ushers in a new wave of prospects and young talent it hopes will bring it back to postseason success.

The only member of the Royals’ 2015 World Series title still on the roster is the 32-year-old Perez. Memories from that October and the 2014 postseason run were brought up Thursday because Eric Hosmer, the anchor of those teams, returned to Kauffman Stadium for the first time since the final game of the 2017 season -- this time, as a member of the Red Sox.

Perez calls Hosmer one of his “brothers,” and the two got to catch up before the game. When Hosmer stepped to the plate for the first time, Perez stepped to the side of the plate, letting the first baseman have his moment in front of a standing ovation.

“It was good to see him back at The K,” Perez said. “All the history we made here together. I was super excited tonight.”

And then Perez did what he does best, guiding a young pitcher through a tough lineup and coming through offensively, yet again.

“This is Salvador Perez’s team, his stadium, and he’s the guy that this team is built around,” Hosmer said before the game. “Just as a teammate and as a friend, I’m extremely happy for him and proud of everything he’s done here. The teammate and man that he is, it’s something that Kansas City fans should be really proud of, having him as their catcher. I know he doesn’t take it lightly. He comes in ready to play and ready to work every day.”