Royals' Salvador Perez surpasses 1,000 career hits

By Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Royals Salvador Perez gets his 1000th career hit during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, April 12, 2021. [AP Photo/Orlin Wagner]

Four hits, a career milestone and a taped congratulations from franchise icon George Brett.

That's how Kansas City All-Star catcher Salvador Perez's night went, but he would've enjoyed it more had the Royals won.

The Royals got off to a dreadfully slow start offensively, striking out 10 times against Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Alex Cobb, but they found a jolt of energy in a three-run sixth inning to pull within a run after having dug an early hole.

However, that energy and momentum went flying down the right-field line a half inning later at 119 mph off the bat of Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani laced a double that sparked a three-run seventh inning for the Angels. They added onto their lead in the ninth as the Royals dropped the first game of the three-game series 10-3 on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals (4-4) have lost three of their last four. Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer struck out six in five innings. He allowed four runs, just one earned, and seven hits (all singles). Singer also committed an error, and the Royals committed two more behind him.

"That was a really good start by Brady," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "Not the results, but the stuff was as good as we've seen from him. I thought the lower part of the zone maybe as good as we've seen in a long time. You're talking three unearned runs that ended up piling on. There was some trouble, but the stuff was very encouraging today and something to build on in my mind."

Perez went 4 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. His fourth hit of the night pushed his career total to 1,001 hits.

Jorge Soler drove in a pair of runs and Whit Merrifield doubled and scored a run. Ohtani went 3 for 5 with two doubles, two runs scored and three RBIs, while Mike Trout homered and walked for the Angels (7-3).

Perez, who wears jersey No. 13, became the 13th player to record 1,000 hits in a Royals uniform. "It's unbelievable," Perez said. "It's amazing. It's something that I'll never forget. That's 1,000 hits, a lot of years in the big leagues. I always think about it, where I grow up, where I come from, now to be the player who I am right now made me proud of myself. Thank God for giving me the opportunity to be in history."

Monday night also marked the seventh game of Perez's career with at least four hits, his first such game since Sept. 18, 2020 at Milwaukee. Perez became the fourth active catcher with at least 1,000 career hits. He joined Kurt Suzuki, Yadier Molina and Jonathan Lucroy in that group with his sixth-inning single. Perez has three Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Glove Awards on his resume.

"It's a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, concentration," Perez said of being a two-way standout as a catcher. "I try to, when I'm hitting, concentrate. When I'm catching, concentrate behind home plate. It's a lot of sacrifice, so it means a lot."

The Royals offense seemed largely lifeless for the better part of five innings, but Merrifield's one-out hustle double into right field got a three-run sixth inning started.

With the play unfolding in front of him as he sprinted down the first base line, Merrifield made the turn at full speed just as right fielder Jared Walsh began to gather the ball with his momentum carrying away from the throw. Merrifield beat the off-line throw to give the Royals just their second runner in scoring position in the game.

After an Andrew Benintendi walk, Perez clubbed a 2-2 splitter from Cobb into left field to drive in the Royals' first run of the night and reach 1,000 hits. Cobb threw him seven splitters during that at-bat.

"My first at-bat, he threw me a fastball inside," Perez said. "I hit it to the middle. My second at-bat, it was a curveball. I hit it the other way. My third at-bat, I was looking for the split. I know that's his best pitch. I chased one or two. I took the other ones, a couple for a ball. He left one in the middle and I hit it pretty good."

Following Carlos Santana's grounder to first base, Soler delivered a two-run single into center field that pulled the Royals within a run, 4-3, with two outs in the inning. Soler had struck out seven consecutive times before stepping into the box with two outs and two runners on base.

However, the following half inning the Angels tacked three more runs onto their lead starting with a two-run double roped into the right field corner by Ohtani. They also added a run on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Royals right-hander Carlos Hernández that allowed Ohtani to score later in the inning.

"That takes the wind out of you," Matheny said. "We've talked about just how much it takes out of a club to get back into a game, especially one where we've been suppressed pretty much the entire game. Then to throw something together to where we get back within one, that's an opportunity for us to go to some of our big leverage arms in the pen.

"They are going to — just like they have already — they're going to get us out of those spots, get a zero on the board and get us right back in the dugout where we can build on that momentum. It just didn't work out like we wanted it to today."

Ohtani's second double of the night came on a ball down the left field line that Benintendi made a diving attempt at but could not catch. The Angels added three insurance runs in that inning, including a two-run homer by Trout.