It had been more than a week since a Royal had hit a home run with men on base. Salvador Perez picked the perfect time to buck this trend.
Perez launched a go-ahead two-run home run into the Sonic Slam section in the eighth inning, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 Kansas City lead. As a result, the Royals won their fourth straight game, climbing within a game of the first-place Cleveland Indians.
Chris Young, despite not making it out of the fifth inning, had his best start in more than a month. He worked around four baserunners in the first two innings. Carlos Santana homered against him in the third, but Young kept the Indians at that lone run until the fifth.
In the fifth inning, Young walked Rajai Davis and Santana before being relieved for Dillon Gee. Gee, pitching in his first game since May 31, gave up a ringing single to Jason Kipnis, scoring Davis and restoring the Indians' one-run lead.
Sandwiched in between the two Cleveland runs was the second MLB home run in the career of Whit Merrifield, which came 24 hours after his first. Merrifield launched a game-tying solo shot off of Josh Tomlin into the Sonic Slam section.
Merrfield's home run was the 10th straight home run by a Royal that occurred with nobody on base.
Young's final line: 4.1 innings, five hits, two runs, and four strikeouts. He walked four Indians, and he needed 87 pitches to get 13 outs. For what it's worth, it ties the fewest runs Young has allowed in a start this year.
The Royals had plenty of chances to tie the game, most notably in the sixth inning. Alcides Escobar led off the frame with a single, but Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer flew out to make two outs. Perez, on a 3-0 pitch, lifted a lazy fly ball into shallow center field, but it dropped in between the center fielder and the shortstop for a double. However, Escobar wasn't funning full speed on contact, so he was held at third. Tomlin got Kendrys Morales to ground out to end the Royals threat in the next at-bat.
In the seventh, Paulo Orlando led off with a bloop single, but he didn't score. In the eighth, Eric Hosmer reached on an infield single with one out, but it appeared that the Royals were primed to strand him after Cain struck out on ball four. On the first pitch of his at-bat, Perez walloped Brian Shaw's fastball over the left-center wall, bucking the trend of solo Royal home runs.
It was the first time since June 2 that a Royal went deep with men on base. That was when Drew Butera hit a two-run bomb against Cleveland. Perez' shot was long overdue, and it was his 10th of the season.
Joakim Soria, who entered the game with two on and one out in the eighth and escaped the jam, also worked the ninth inning to earn the win. He is 3-1.
The ninth inning was interesting. After getting the first two Indians out, Soria allowed Davis to single before walking Santana. Kipnis popped up to end the game, sealing the victory.
Tomlin, who was in line for the win after working seven innings of one-run ball, had his game ruined by Shaw, who took the loss.
The Royals are 34-30. They are just one game behind the Indians. Suddenly, everything appears fixed with the defending world champions. Baseball is funny.
Tomorrow: Kansas City goes for the sweep when it sends Ian Kennedy to oppose Corey Kluber. It goes without saying how big it would be for the Royals to take all three games for the Indians.Finally, a home run with men on base!