It’s Big Sal Perez to the rescue again as Royals win
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Time and time again last year, it was Sal Perez who delivered when the Royals needed a big hit, regardless of the inning.
And Perez picked up right where he left off, smashing a double just inside the left-field line in the bottom of the eighth inning that scored Alex Gordon and gave the Royals a 4-3 lead over the White Sox.
Closer Greg Holland then pitched a scoreless ninth and notched his second save.
Afterward, designated hitter Billy Butler watched as reporters gathered around Perez in the clubhouse.
"That kid over there," Butler said, pointing toward Perez, "has come a long, long way. Absolute stud."
And the Royals seem to be counting on Perez more and more.
"The thing about Sal is that he can always rise up to the situation," manager Ned Yost said, "but he doesn’t get too overexcited. He’s just a clutch player.
"And to me, what makes a clutch player is someone who does get up for big moments, but doesn’t get beyond himself and try to do too much."
The Royals had just watched a 3-1 lead in the top of the eighth evaporate when Wade Davis gave up two runs.
Billy Butler drew a walk with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and Yost inserted pinch runner Jarrod Dyson.
But Dyson was gunned down trying to steal on a perfect throw from White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto.
Still, Alex Gordon followed by lacing a double to right-center.
The White Sox brought in right-hander Mikail Cleto to face Perez, and strangely, skipper Robin Ventura chose not to walk Perez, even though Mike Moustakas, hitless in 2014, was on deck.
"I’ve never really faced him before," Perez said of Cleto. "So I was just looking for a fastball and something I could swing hard at."
Perez got a heater on the first pitch, but he took it for a strike.
"Kind of handcuffed me," Perez said.
On the next pitch, a breaking ball down, Perez drilled a double down the left-field line.
"That was a tough, tough pitch to hit," Yost said. "But Sal just has a way of coming through."
Asked about his level of confidence in Perez in those situations, first baseman Eric Hosmer said, "Yeah, a lot. But we’ve got confidence in everyone in this room."
True, but maybe it’s just tad more when Big Sal comes up.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.