Salvy splash! Royals walk off in nightcap

KANSAS CITY — The signature Salvy Splash has returned with a force.

This time, though, it was in the fountains.

Salvador Perez crushed a no-doubt homer over the left-center-field wall in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night in the Royals’ 3-2 walk-off victory over the Blue Jays for a twin-bill split at Kauffman Stadium.

Perez and the Royals’ bench knew he’d gotten all of a slider from Blue Jays reliever Joel Payamps as soon as he made contact. The projected distance was 459 feet, according to Statcast, for Kansas City’s first walk off of the season. That’s the third-longest walk-off homer tracked by Statcast, behind Kyle Schwarber’s 463-foot blast from Friday and Mark Reynolds’ 464-foot homer in 2016.

“100 percent,” Perez said. “I hit it pretty good.”

“It’s over,” Jarrod Dyson said he thought as soon as Perez’s bat found the ball.

Perez’s third walk-off homer of his career — tied for second in Royals history behind George Brett’s six — couldn’t have come at a better time. After being held hitless through five innings in Game 1 against Blue Jays starter Steven Matz, the Royals had more chances in Game 2, but could only capitalize on a few. Dyson, Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana helped Kansas City score its first two runs in the third inning. The Royals, however, were left wanting after that. Twice they had a man on third base who never came home, and they were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position in Game 2.

In Game 1, they only had two baserunners find themselves in scoring position.

“Our offense is going to be characterized by, ‘One guy, then the next, then the next, then something big happens,’” manager Mike Matheny said. “Salvy threw that plan right out the window and just took care of it himself. I think he was tired of waiting around for somebody to get on base.”

Despite giving up four runs in the Game 1 loss, Mike Minor’s 5 2/3 innings allowed the Royals to be aggressive with their bullpen in Game 2 after starter Ervin Santana allowed one run in three innings. After lefty Jake Brentz yielded a run in the fourth, high-leverage relievers Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont and Greg Holland combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

There was no better time for Perez’s blast — and there was no better hitter to have at the plate in that moment. The six-time All-Star catcher — who appeared as the designated hitter in Game 2 — has been red hot since the Royals returned to Kansas City. In six games this week, Perez is 10-for-23 with two home runs and a 1.217 OPS against the Angels and the Blue Jays.

“Salvy’s always played with a lot of energy, a lot of passion,” Dyson said. “Nothing he does surprises me. He goes out there like he’s still 19-20 years old, wanting to catch every day. I asked him today what his goal is, and he told me he wanted to be in the Hall of Fame.

“I see that a mile away. Every day, he’s got a lot of energy, don’t ask for days off. That’s how you build a Hall of Famer right there.”

Perez’s presence in the middle of the lineup has helped other Royals hitters find their groove. With Carlos Santana, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier all struggling to produce at the plate right now, Perez has done everything he can to fill the void.

It goes back to the goal that he and the Royals have in 2021: Contending. At the end of Saturday night, the Royals were atop the American League Central, leading by 1 1/2 games. It’s still very early in the season, but Perez has been doing this long enough to know that these early games count, too.

“It’s fun, any time you have the opportunity and something like [a walk-off] happens, it’s good for the team,” Perez said. “The most important thing is, we win the game. That’s all that matters. Play hard through the last out and see what happens. Everything is about winning.

“To get to the playoffs, it’s about winning the game.”