48! 'Incredible' Salvy hits record-tying homer

September 30th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The joy that swelled throughout Kauffman Stadium when hit his 48th home run of the season on Wednesday night, tying the Royals’ single-season home run record, quickly turned into worry and concern when the veteran catcher exited the game two innings later with a right ankle sprain.

But following the Royals’ 10-5 win over Cleveland, Perez injected some joy -- and a big sigh of relief -- back into the Kansas City organization and fanbase. He entered the postgame Zoom room in typical Salvy fashion: With a big smile on his face and a simple answer to whether he’ll be ready to play Thursday or this weekend.

“Tomorrow?” Perez said. “Yeah yeah. I’m going to try my best. Depending on how I feel tomorrow, but like back in the day -- put some tape, take some pills, see what happens.”

Perez has already chased down an historic season with 48 home runs. There are four games left in the Royals’ 2021 season. Did anyone think he’d stop now?

“You’ve talked to him more than I have,” manager Mike Matheny said to reporters postgame. “I’m still kind of rattled about the whole thing to be honest with you. I just want to see him finish what he started.”

The first three innings Wednesday were jarring. To start, Perez demolished the very first pitch he saw, a first-inning fastball from Indians right-hander Zach Plesac, 439 feet to straight-away center field and into history.

Perez’s Major League-leading 48th home run moved him into a tie with Jorge Soler’s 2019 franchise record. After Perez jogged around the bases and celebrated with his teammates, the 10,373 in announced attendance got louder and louder as they requested Perez’s second curtain call in as many nights.

He obliged, jumping out onto the warning track dirt, taking off his helmet and pumping his arms in the air.

“That’s something I’ll never forget,” Perez said. “Especially to see the crowd. The support we have from the fans, it’s amazing. ... It’s special to do that for the fans here in Kansas City.”

But things then took a turn. In between the top and bottom of the second inning, Perez slipped on the dugout stairs, tumbling down before needing assistance from Royals trainers into the clubhouse.

“I don’t know what happened,” Perez said. “I missed the last step going down into the dugout. I turned my ankle. We’ll see how we wake up tomorrow and see what happens. But I just fell down. Like a little kid.”

When it was time for Perez to go into the on-deck circle in the bottom of the inning, he didn’t come out right away; he had gone into the cage for some test swings and felt good about them. Moments later, Perez came out with a bat and hit for himself.

He didn’t feel right during the at-bat, though, and went straight down to the clubhouse after striking out swinging. Backup catcher Cam Gallagher went out to warm up Royals starter Daniel Lynch and was quickly called back to the dugout to put his full catcher’s gear on to sub in for Perez.

With Perez’s status questionable, the mood shifted in the Royals dugout.

“Somebody told me what happened, and it takes the air out of you,” second baseman Whit Merrifield said. “Especially when he’s doing something that’s special. It definitely took the air out of the dugout, there’s no denying it.”

“That pit in your stomach the entire game worrying about him, just like when any of our guys get hurt,” Matheny added. “But this one, especially after he does something so significant earlier in the game, you just want to not have something bring it down like that.

“The guys were concerned. You’re talking about a guy being the heart and soul -- that’s who he is.”

The Royals were leading 5-1 at that point, but the offense stayed quiet as the game wore on and Lynch allowed four runs in three-plus innings. He exited in the fourth after a comebacker hit the palm of his glove, but he was at 81 pitches and laboring by then, too.

In the seventh, the Royals broke the tie when Hunter Dozier laced a go-ahead, two-run triple to right and scored on a wild pitch, and then tacked on two more runs in the eighth on a double by Hanser Alberto and a single by Gallagher.

Reports looked favorable on Perez as the Royals entered the clubhouse to celebrate the victory. That allowed them to properly celebrate his major achievement, too, knowing that he’s wanting his name back in the lineup as soon as Thursday to see how many homers he can hit before the end of Sunday.

“What he means to this team, I can’t even describe it,” Merrifield said. “I’m hoping that we turn this corner quickly, which I think we’re going to, and he’ll start getting the national recognition that he deserves in that [MVP] category. It’s just incredible what he’s doing. It really is. ... I run out of words to describe how incredible it’s been.”