Salvy's clutch HR highlights Royals' tough week at plate

April 18th, 2024

CHICAGO -- ’s speed and ’s power is turning into a deadly combination.

Or a really fun one, if you’re the Royals.

Down one run in the top of the eighth inning in Game 1 of the Royals’ doubleheader against the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, Witt beat out an infield single to put the tying run on base for the middle of the Royals’ order.

Witt stole second to give the Royals a runner in scoring position, but he needed to simply jog around the bases when Salvador Perez hammered a first-pitch, 97 mph fastball for the go-ahead home run off Michael Kopech, leading the Royals to an eventual 4-2 win at Guaranteed Rate Field.

A big hit eluded the Royals in their 2-1 loss in the Game 2 series finale on Wednesday, ending their six-game road swing through New York and Chicago at 3-3. The offensive struggles they dealt with over the six games -- they scored two runs or fewer in four of the six games -- showed up heavily in Game 2 on Wednesday. The Royals went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and didn’t get anything going against Chicago starter Erick Fedde, who threw 94 pitches in 5 2/3 innings but struck out five.

That handed Royals starter Michael Wacha the loss despite his quality start, allowing two runs in six innings. The Kansas City pitching staff is second in the Majors with a 2.79 ERA, and the rotation ranks first in quality starts (12) and innings (113) following Wednesday night’s slate of games.

“If we keep doing that, we’re going to win a lot of ballgames,” Wacha said. “... Our hitters will be there. They come up clutch. They get timely hitting. Just wasn’t in the cards today.”

As the Royals prepare to host the Orioles for three games this weekend, followed by a four-game set against the Blue Jays, the offense will look to turn things around by individually hitting out of slumps.

Leadoff hitter Maikel Garcia is mired in an 0-for-23 slump; MJ Melendez went 0-for-18 on the road trip, and Witt has cooled off since his sizzling start, going 6-for-25 on the road trip. But his impact extends beyond what he does at the plate, like how he used his speed for the infield single in Game 1.

“We’ve seen him earlier this year where he was locked in, hitting every ball hard, and these last couple days, it hasn’t been quite as easy,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s baseball, right? But he has so many ways to beat you. And he never takes a pitch off.”

Right now, Vinnie Pasquantino -- who has a seven-game hitting streak -- and Perez are carrying the offense.

Just three days after suffering a mild left groin strain Sunday against the Mets, Perez silenced any injury doubts by catching Game 1 and ending up the offensive hero Wednesday afternoon with his fifth homer of the season.

“Big-time player doing big-time things,” said Game 1 starter Brady Singer, who allowed two runs in five innings. “It’s incredible to watch him. I’ve been fortunate enough to play with him for a couple of years, just watching him every day is so much fun. Obviously he’s banged up, has something going on -- he wants to play, he’s been trying to play since the injury. For him to go out there and do that, it’s incredible.

“... He’s a beast. He’s a warrior.”

The 33-year-old only missed one game because of Tuesday’s rainout. He was adamant he’d be in the lineup the next time the Royals took the field.

“I feel good,” Perez said Wednesday. “I don’t feel any [pain]. I feel great.”

Before Perez’s homer in Game 1, Witt went from home to first base in 4.09 seconds -- a 31.1 feet-per-second sprint speed -- to beat out the single. Perez’s no-doubt home run had a hang time of 5.1 seconds out to left-center field.

Mere seconds changed the game, as the Royals delivered the late-game blow and took the lead. In the top of the ninth inning, Hunter Renfroe’s 432-foot home run gave the Royals some insurance as James McArthur picked up his fourth save in the bottom of the frame.

Perez’s clutch homer backed up Singer’s outing in which he battled command issues, especially with the run on his sinker. Singer needed 93 pitches, relying heavily on his slider, which generated eight whiffs on 23 swings (35%).

That same clutch performance eluded the Royals in Game 2. A bigger test for the offense awaits this weekend at The K.

“We’ve loved playing at home,” Witt said. “We’ve got to keep it rolling. We’re going to face the same guys again in Baltimore [as the Royals did at the beginning of April], so any time you face a guy more times, you’re more comfortable. It’s going to be a good series.”