Perez, Garcia big contributors in series finale win

May 7th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- will tell you that any ball he hits that lands over the fence is a good thing, no matter the distance.

But 462 feet? Well, that feels different. It’s a distance he’s never reached before Sunday’s first-inning homer in the Royals’ 5-1 win over the A’s at Kauffman Stadium. Perez crushed a 99.9 mph fastball from A’s starter Mason Miller for the longest home run tracked by Statcast in Perez’s career.

It dented the wall above the fountains in left-center field.

“I hit the weight room before [the game],” Perez said.

Perez went 3-for-4 on Sunday with three runs scored to help the Royals salvage the weekend series from the A’s, who are leaving Kansas City with the worst record in baseball at 8-27, just below the Royals at 9-26. Backed by solid pitching from starter -- who postgame was at the hospital but alert after being struck by a line drive in the sixth inning -- and the bullpen, the Royals hope Sunday is a momentum-builder as they welcome the White Sox to town for a four-game set starting Monday.

“We’ve got to do that more consistently,” Perez said. “It was a great win today.”

Since April 24, Perez is batting .429 (18-for-42) in 11 games with five homers and 12 RBIs for a 1.300 OPS. Perez is doing all he can to get the Royals out of their season-beginning slump. He also caught one of the league’s best basestealers in Esteury Ruiz attempting to steal second in the sixth inning. Ruiz was 16-for-17 on the bases entering Sunday’s game, and Perez caught him with a perfect throw to Bobby Witt Jr.

“For however many seasons this is, to continue to be that guy everybody can count on, every single day, as a catcher, it’s quite amazing,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “... He’s phenomenal. He really is just fun to watch. He’s fun to be around, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

The Royals captain punctuated an offense beginning to find its footing, while a rookie continued to impress in all facets of the game. , the Royals’ No. 3 prospect, drove in Perez in the fourth inning for the go-ahead run on Sunday, marking Garcia’s fifth game with an RBI. Garcia extended his hit streak to six straight games since he was recalled last Tuesday.

Even the out he recorded in the eighth was impactful. Garcia hit a fastball off the end of his bat 101 mph to first base, advancing Nick Pratto -- who had just roped a two-run double -- to third base to set up Michael Massey’s sacrifice fly.

Garcia’s smooth right-handed swing is all about contact, a trait that showed throughout the Minor Leagues. He’s able to keep his bat in the zone longer than most, which allows for contact even when his timing is off.

How he’s able to do this is quite simple, according to the 23-year-old.

“I just see the ball and hit the ball,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s bat hasn’t slowed down since he was called up, but neither has his glove. Sunday marked his 15th professional game at third base and his fifth in the Majors.

In the third inning, A’s center fielder and former Royals Minor Leaguer Esteury Ruiz hit a soft bunt toward Garcia, who charged in and made an impressive barehanded play to get the out. In the seventh with a runner on and two outs, A’s second baseman Jordan Diaz hit a chopper that bounced onto the infield grass. Again, Garcia charged in, this time backhanding the ball, making a clean transfer and slinging it to first base.

“He’s a really good infielder,” Quatraro said. “Nothing seems to panic him. He doesn’t rush plays. He’s smooth. He’s got tons of arm strength. One of the things that stood out to me on those balls on the bunt and slow hit ball, I mean he gets a lot on the throw from an off-balanced position.

“Good infielders have good internal clocks. And he seems to have that. He knows who’s running, he knows how much time he has. He makes good, strong, accurate throws.”

Perez understands this year is about evaluating the young talent the Royals have in their clubhouse as they build the core group of the future. He knows it’s his job to help guide them there. And he’s convinced Garcia is a part of that.

“He’s not scared to play,” Perez said. “He’s ready to compete. I think he’s going to be good.”