KANSAS CITY — Of all the bats the Royals have been missing this season, catcher Salvador Perez’s ranks near or at the top.
But there are signs of late that the six-time All-Star catcher is crawling out of a two-month slump. Perez hammered a two-run home run in the first inning, his 14th dinger of the season, and that was enough to carry the Royals to a 4-2 win over the Twins on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals secured their first series win since May 30, also at home against the Twins.
Perez now has hit in eight straight games, a stretch that includes three home runs.
“His at-bats tonight were fantastic,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You noticed he was taking pitches, he was seeing the ball really, really well. He was getting in good hitters’ counts. That’s when he’s starting to come out of it, when he just gets a little less anxious and starts seeing the ball better like he did tonight. That’s when I turn to [hitting coach] Terry Bradshaw and [catching coach] Pedro [Grifol] and say, ‘He’s coming now. He’s gonna get hot.'”
The Royals’ bullpen also came up big as long reliever Brian Flynn threw three scoreless innings and Tim Hill induced a huge double play in the eighth inning.
“I take pride in that role of picking the starters up on nights they don’t have it and saving the rest of the guys for the next game,” Flynn said. “To put as much stock in those games as I do, it helps carry over to these situations because they’re all the same to me.
“I’ve just had a lot of success in this last month with powering the sinker down, I’ve been really driving to the bottom of the zone, being able to repeat that ahead and behind in the count. Slider’s started coming around these last few outings, so that’s definitely made things easier.”
Wily Peralta, who struggled trying to close out Friday’s win, got the job done this time with his third save. It was only the second time in his big league career he has pitched in back-to-back games.
“I felt way better tonight,” Peralta said. “My timing was better, pitches were better, slider was sharp. I located better. I feel like if you get more work your pitches will be better.”
Added Yost, “It was a throw him back-on-the-horse type of deal. We talked to him today and he said, ‘Look, I feel four times better today than I did yesterday.’ He was rusty [Friday], he hadn’t pitched in five or six days. And today, he felt really, really good. He’s a durable guy.”
Royals right-hander Jakob Junis, who had been on the disabled list with back inflammation, returned to the mound for the first time since July 2 and settled in after a somewhat shaky first inning.
Junis gave up a double to Joe Mauer leading off the game and Eddie Rosario singled him in with a sharp single. But Junis gave up just two more hits until coming out after four innings and 77 pitches. Yost said prior to the game that Junis would go about 70-75 pitches.
Junis walked two and struck out six, including the side in the fourth. And he didn’t give up a home run after having allowed 24 this season.
“That’s been my kryptonite all year, getting beat by the home-run ball,” Junis said. “So to get the amount of soft contact and ground balls I did tonight was very promising, and hopefully I can keep doing that.”