He is not a patient man. Salvador Perez has proved this in five years as a major-leaguer. If you throw him a pitch, more often than not, he will swing.
When Perez stepped to the plate in the second inning of Saturday’s 9-1 victory over the Angels, he had not faced live pitching in three full days. A sore left wrist confined him to the bench. Barred from playing and dissuaded from excessive physical activity, he eschewed his usual postgame ritual of dumping the Gatorade bucket on his teammates. Instead he resorted to dousing them with cups of water.
By swinging at the first pitch he saw on Saturday, Perez ignited a six-run inning, delivered a vote of confidence on his wrist and aided the Royals’ pursuit of their seventh victory in nine games. Perez destroyed an 89-mph fastball from Los Angeles starter Matt Shoemaker. The solo shot landed in the left-field seats.
“Well,” manager Ned Yost said in the dugout to hitting coach Dale Sveum, “I guess his wrist feels OK.”
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In the wake of Perez’s blast, the Royals pilloried Shoemaker, who could not finish the inning. The inning lasted 24 minutes and featured 11 plate appearances, six hits, two walks and one pitching change. The Royals, 70-46, batted around and Perez stayed hot. His subsequent RBI double provided a bookend for the rally.
In between the two hits from Perez, Jarrod Dyson hit a two-run single, Eric Hosmer ripped an RBI single and Mike Moustakas plated a run with a groundout.
An inning later, Dyson scored after some shoddy fielding by the Angels and an RBI single by Ben Zobrist. To celebrate his 31st birthday, Dyson collected three hits, drove in three runs, scored twice and saved a run with his arm.
All this offered a sizable cushion for Johnny Cueto, who improved to 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA. His second start at Kauffman Stadium lacked the electricity of his first, when he spun a shutout against the Tigers. This time, he merely logged eight innings of one-run baseball.
“Every time he goes out there, he feels like he has a chance to win,” said catching coach Pedro Grifol, who translated for Cueto. “Because the offense really provides some runs for him. It gives him that extra boost, that extra energy for him to do the job.”
The victory was the 900th of Yost’s managerial career. After the game, he indicated he always hoped he might be able to win 1,000. That pursuit will have to wait until 2016.
“I’m getting close,” Yost said. “When that happens, I’ll be pretty excited.”
At the start on Saturday, the Angels sprayed ropes off Cueto. Albert Pujols opened the second by blasting a quick-pitch changeup for a solo shot. David Murphy followed with a double. But when third-base coach Gary DiSarcina challenged the arm of Dyson, starting in place of Lorenzo Cain in center field, the Royals responded.
The scenario unfolded when former Royal David DeJesus flicked a single into center. DiSarcina sent Murphy. Dyson gathered the baseball and fired toward Perez. Murphy was out by several steps.
“I thought I had the ball when he first hit third,” Dyson said. “I looked up, and he just kept running. I was like, ‘Thank you.’”
In the bottom of the frame, Shoemaker held the lead for exactly one pitch. That was the fastball crushed by Perez.
Alex Rios worked a walk in the next at-bat. He advanced to third when Paulo Orlando smacked a double into left. Dyson rolled a single up the middle, out of the reach of shortstop Taylor Featherston, to bring both of his teammates home.
Dyson did not remain at first base for long. He soon stole second. After Alcides Escobar bunted Dyson to third and Ben Zobrist walked, Hosmer stroked a run-scoring single to right.
The hits did not stop. Kendrys Morales cracked a single. Zobrist scored on a grounder by Moustakas. Perez capped the scoring with his RBI double.
“After three days (off), I felt good,” Perez said.
Dyson catalyzed another run in the third. He also experienced some good fortune. He doubled off reliever Fernando Salas, but when Escobar flied out to right, Dyson misread the play. He drifted well off second base.
The Angels made two mistakes here. Outfielder Kole Calhoun delayed his throw, perhaps surprised Dyson was so far off the bag. When Featherstone fielded the ball, he neglected to place either foot on the bag. Dyson was safe. Zobrist singled him home afterward.
Dyson and Orlando teamed up to drive in two more runs in the sixth. Orlando slashed a double to score Moustakas, who had opened the frame with a two-base hit. Dyson continued the pounding with his third hit of the game, a run-scoring single.
“We got the win,” Dyson said. “Any time you get the win, that’s a great day for us.”