MINNEAPOLIS — The joy from taking three out of four games from Minnesota and winning their eighth straight series was tainted a bit for the Royals over concern for their All-Star catcher, Sal Perez.
Perez left Monday’s game — a 6-4 win by the Royals — because of discomfort in his right knee.
Manager Ned Yost said afterward that Perez injured his patellar tendon as he came to a sudden stop while running the bases in the fifth inning.
"He just pinched it a little," Yost said. "He went and caught two innings, then it got a little sore and we took him out as a precaution."
The Royals did not MRI the knee, Yost said.
"The trainers examined it and there is no structural damage," Yost said.
Asked what his level of concern was, Yost said, "Very small. He’s day to day …. But he may play (Tuesday)."
Meanwhile, the Royals cruised past the Twins and upped their lead in the American League Central to two games over idle Detroit. They also remained 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the No. 2 seed in the playoff chase.
Starter Jason Vargas once again was brilliant. Vargas, who threw a complete-game shutout last Wednesday, had a shutout again through six before Oswaldo Arcia led off the seventh with a 420-foot homer to right.
But Vargas worked quickly and efficiently. He walked just one and struck out three.
Asked what was working for him on this night, Vargas said: "The infielder and outfielder gloves. They made a lot of great plays behind me."
— Perez’s blooper. Even though Trevor May had walked the bases loaded in the fifth and was struggling mightily to throw strikes, it was pretty much assumed that Perez would hack at the first pitch he saw. And Perez did just that, catching a slider right off the end of the bat. The ball spun through the air over the infield and dropped into center for a two-run single to put the Royals on the board.
— Billy’s bat. Billy Butler continues to slash the ball around the park. He had two more hits Monday, including a big RBI single in the fifth that put the Royals up 3-0. Butler also drew a walk.
— Kratz Krushes. Backup catcher Erik Kratz got summoned in the top of the eighth when Perez left with the injury. It’s not easy to come into the game that cold, but Kratz promptly blasted a pitch from Anthony Swarzak into the left-field seats for his first homer as a Royal. That was the third pinch-hit homer of his career, and gave the Royals a nice 4-0 cushion.
He wasn’t through. Kratz then smashed a 412-foot homer to center in the ninth for the first multi-homer game of his career. Nicely done.
"For him to come in the game late and get two big flies, that was huge," Vargas said.
"He’s been great for us," Yost said. "Dayton (Moore) really did a good job of strengthening our bench with him, Raul (Ibanez), Josh (Willingham), Christian Colon, (Jason) Frasor."
— Aaron Crow’s debacle. Given a 6-1 lead in the ninth, Crow was supposed to avoid any drama and make sure Yost didn’t have to go with closer Greg Holland, whom Yost feels has been overworked lately. But Crow did not do his job. He gave up two singles, then a three-run bomb to Trevor Plouffe. And suddenly it was a save situation for Holland.
"Crow didn’t pitch badly," Yost said. "They got two hits that basically beat our shift. And he left one pitch out over the plate for Plouffe."
— Josh’s gamble. Willingham singled to lead off the second but then made a questionable decision when he tried to go from first to third on Mike Moustakas’ single to center. Willingham hesitated a bit around second, and as he saw center fielder Danny Santana move slowly to the ball, he tried to reach third. Santana threw him out by 10 feet. Alcides Escobar then hit into a double play and the promising inning fizzled in a hurry. But hey, Willingham did have three hits on the day, so he is pardoned.
— Omar’s baserunning. Omar Infante almost got embarrassed as he was trying to score from second base on Butler’s sharp single to center. Infante put it in cruise control as he rounded third and then looked back at the play, letting up slightly. Infante then picked it up again but the throw was spot on from Santana and Infante would have been out — but catcher Eric Fryer dropped the ball. Lucky.