KANSAS CITY — The Royals needed a big hit in a big moment on Sunday afternoon.
So they turned to their leader to get the job done.
With the Royals and Blue Jays locked in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh during the series finale, and after Kansas City had left 10 men on base up until that point, Salvador Perez put an end to the madness and launched his second go-ahead home run in as many days.
On a first-pitch swing, Perez gave the Royals a 2-0 victory and series win over Toronto at Kauffman Stadium.
After three weeks of the regular season, the Royals are 9-5, have yet to lose a series and are atop the American League Central.
“We’re only 14 games into the season, yet you already hear the stir, you see the fact that we’re at the top,” reliever Josh Staumont said. “And we’re not slowing down.”
In the middle of it all is Perez, who has driven in 11 runs this season. His last four homers have broken a tie, and his five home runs this season have averaged 432 feet.
“Anything for a win,” Perez said. “Feels great. Especially the first couple innings, we leave a lot of guys in scoring position. I think anytime you have an opportunity to do something for the team, we got to do it. We got to get it done.”
After his walk-off homer in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader, Perez splashed a sinker from Blue Jays reliever T.J. Zeuch into the fountains behind right-center field. It went a projected distance of 441 feet, per Statcast, and was 110 mph off the bat — his third 110-plus mph home run this season.
He entered 2021 with two career 110-plus mph homers, both in 2017.
“This is a special player,” manager Mike Matheny said. “I don’t need to tell people in Kansas City that. Just to watch what he does day in, day out, we’ve talked a lot about it, but I don’t think we can talk too much. That’s what leaders do. You have to have exceptional talent, but sometimes we need somebody to step in the gap, and that’s what he’s doing right now.”
Perez’s blast helped the Royals salvage starter Brady Singer’s stellar outing. In what was by far his best start of the season, Singer spun six scoreless innings while striking out six with three walks. He exited with a no-decision, though, because the Royals couldn’t cash in on the scoring opportunities Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray was giving them.
The Royals worked six walks against Ray in five scoreless innings. They stole four bases in the first five innings and twice had the bases loaded against Ray, but to no avail.
The Royals were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position Sunday. For as loud as Perez’s homer was off the bat, it also sounded like a sigh of relief after so many chances.
“Unbelievable,” Singer, who lowered his ERA to 3.77 in three starts, said. “I mean, am I used to it now? I don’t know. It’s unbelievable. He’s seeing the ball really well. He’s seen it for the two years I’ve been here, and obviously forever now. He’s just hot right now and it’s so good for not only me in that situation, but for the whole team.”
Perez is playing on another level early this season, which seems impossible after what he showed last season, winning AL Comeback Player of the Year and posting a .986 OPS in 37 games. But he hasn’t missed a beat to start the 2021 season, especially this past week.
On Monday, he went 4-for-4 and knocked his 1,000th career hit. On Tuesday, he picked off David Fletcher in the top of the ninth inning with the bases loaded to secure the Royals’ win. On Wednesday, he hit a go-ahead homer and then a double to tack onto the Royals’ offensive outburst.
The walk-off homer came Saturday, and the two-run blast Sunday wrapped up the week.
Plus, he helped orchestrate a shutout Sunday, with the Royals not allowing a hit after the third inning. The bonus for him has been to play in front of his family, including his mom, Yilda Diaz, at Kauffman Stadium this week.
“Hopefully I can have another nine more weeks like that,” Perez said. “It was a great week. Hopefully I continue to do it.”
Perez peered into the Royals’ camera as he finished his postgame press conference and exited the Zoom room — a place he’s been in a lot after the week he’s had.
“I’ll see you guys tomorrow, OK?” he said with a smile.