July 5, 2022

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Salvy the speedster?! Perez notches 1st triple in 5 years

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KANSAS CITY — Salvador Perez is not a man of pure speed like some of his Royals teammates, but he turned on the jets Wednesday afternoon.

When Perez crushed a sinker to the right-field corner in the sixth inning, it first looked like right fielder Raimel Tapia was going to make the catch. But Tapia didn’t read the wall well and seemed to lose the ball in the sun — so when it dropped fair, Perez flew around second base and slid safely into third.

Yes, mark that down as a triple for the Royals’ slugger, just the 11th of his career in over 4,700 plate appearances and first since July 19, 2017.

“When was my last one? Five years ago? Wow,” Perez said with a laugh. “That’s what happens when you become a catcher.”

The three-bagger put a runner on third for Carlos Santana, who came through with a double during his 4-for-4 day — aided by a sun-ball double in the eighth — and led the Royals to an offensive breakout and 8-4 win over the Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium. The win halted Kansas City’s three-game losing streak and breathed some much-needed energy into the dugout — encapsulated by Perez’s teammates’ reactions as he raced around the bases.

“I was rooting him on,” starter Brady Singer, who had exited the game after the fifth, said. “I was screaming at the TV. That was good.”

“I was pushing him from the dugout,” manager Mike Matheny added. “I knew there would be a big smile — once he caught his breath. And then once he got to the dugout.”

Perez was admittedly not thinking “triple” out of the box — he thought it might be caught at first.

“The wind helped me, the wall,” Perez said. “It bounced past Tapia, so I saw that I had a chance. That’s why I went for it.”

“[My teammates] were crazy. Even Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.] was like, ‘A triple?’ It was funny.”

After being shut out the first two games this series, the Royals salvaged Wednesday by jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first with four walks against lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi and key hits from MJ Melendez and Emmanuel Rivera.

“It was different,” Perez said. “We needed to find a way to score some runs.”

And the offense backed up Singer after the Blue Jays tied the game against the right-hander in the third: The Royals answered with two runs in the fourth and added insurance in the fifth, sixth and seventh.

“Just liked how the guys went about the situational hitting,” Matheny said. “Making things happen. That’s the kind of team we need to be. Hit and run, put a bunt down, move guys around, get the big hit. That’s what they did.”

As the Royals have played to the worst record in baseball at 18-37, they’ve preached patience, as frustrating as that is for fans to hear and players and coaches to say. But on Wednesday, the breaks fell their way. Soft grounders found holes through the infield, the offense took advantage of the Blue Jays’ mistakes, and the bullpen allowed one run in four innings.

“The game is crazy,” Perez said. “Sometimes you’re going to score a bunch of runs, sometimes you try your best and you face good pitching. … What I always say, every day is a new day. We got a new opportunity to try to do something different and try to help the team win.”

The challenge now is using Wednesday’s momentum. The struggles that have emerged this season haven’t disappeared with one win, and the Royals have only won back-to-back games three times this season.

They’re looking for Thursday’s series opener against the Orioles to be the fourth time.

But first, they want to savor Wednesday’s win. That was clear from the lighter mood in the clubhouse postgame.

“Made that promise to myself that we make sure to stop and breathe a little bit when you see a game come through the right way,” Matheny said. “It’s been a thing for a while, but I forgot it was a thing. You’re only being fair to yourself if you are equal with the amount of joy you get from the wins with the struggle of the losses. Theoretically, it sounds great. In application, I stink at it. I’m just trying to be more intentional, and I know these guys need that.

“I don’t want them to fall into what I’ve fallen into. Enjoy the wins. These are hard to come by. That’s how you continue to see them. You got to celebrate them. They got to be special. Every one of them is.”

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