February 3, 2023

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Salvy, Witt show flashes of Royals' present and future

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KANSAS CITY — Everyone knows the Royals have their eyes on the future, but on Saturday afternoon, they got a glimpse of the present and what they have to look forward to in the years to come.

The Royals got a homer from their veteran and some insurance from their young stud that helped push them over the top for their first win since May 28.

Two innings later, Bobby Witt Jr. singled home Nicky Lopez to add to the lead. It was fitting that in Perez’s next at-bat, the veteran catcher doubled, scoring Witt to blow the game wide open.  

“Salvy stole the show for us today, and that’s the guy we want stealing the show,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We want to see him come through and feel that confidence that we know he has as a weapon. To hit that homer and then drive the ball for a double, it was a great day for him.” 

Perez hasn’t put up offensive numbers that are up to par with his standards, especially after leading the Majors in home runs and RBIs last season.

He had just one long ball in his last 28 games coming into Saturday, but he connected on a 1-2 fastball up in the zone that went a Statcast-projected 395 feet over the left-field fence into the bullpen. 

“I fouled off two or three [pitches], so I just tried to make an adjustment,” Perez said. “It was a good pitch, but I found the barrel. You have to get on top of that pitch, which is hard, especially when you are struggling.”

It’s been a rough go since his 48 homers and 121 RBIs last season. Perez is on pace for just 22 home runs and 60 RBIs this year. Before his homer, the 11-year veteran was in the longest hitting drought of his career, going hitless (0-for-21) in five straight games. He was hitting .182/.222/.346 before his multihit performance on Saturday.

“I try to help my team to win, and I tried to see a good pitch and hopefully, the team starts to move a different way,” Perez said. “I’ve just tried to be more patient and see the balls in the strike zone.”

The lack of production could be associated with a number of factors, one of which was a sprained left thumb that put him on the injured list on May 17. Perez missed just the minimum 10 games, but it still appears to bother him at times. 

“It’s pretty good, it’s good,” Perez said after Friday’s game. “It’s a little sore sometimes, but nothing they need to keep me out of the lineup for.”

As big as Perez’ homer was in the sixth, the game could’ve flipped in the third inning. The Astros had the bases loaded with two outs, but Witt ranged to his left on a grounder and after a bobble, he threw Yordan Alvarez out at second to keep the game scoreless. The play was reviewed and upheld.

“That’s a game-turner right there,” Matheny said. “To keep the ball in the infield and then get an out, it’s just icing on the cake.”

It was a huge play that backed starter Kris Bubic, who went five scoreless innings after being called up from Triple-A Omaha. Bubic had a 12.83 ERA entering Saturday, but he thrived using his changeup, getting 13 of 15 hitters out with that pitch. He allowed five hits, three walks and struck out three in his return.

“The defense was great and bailed me out of a lot of situations,” Bubic said. “I was kind of tiptoeing and made pitches when we needed it the most. In the spots I needed it, the changeup worked and I don’t think it’s a secret. The fastball was OK, the breaking ball was not really there. Like I said, the whole thing was good enough, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it.” 

It was a win the Royals needed to end many individual hitting droughts, but also a five-game losing streak heading into a rubber game on Sunday.  

“Seeing Salvy back doing his thing and just everyone buying in, this shows what we can do,” Witt said. “This one was a lot of fun.”

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