The Kansas City Royals certainly stumbled out of the starting block after the All-Star break, but they’ve now won eight of nine since they dropped two of three in their opening series.
All-Star catcher Salvador Perez started the scoring Thursday afternoon with his 25th home run of the season, his third consecutive game with a homer, Michael A. Taylor also blasted a homer and right-handed rookie pitcher Carlos Hernández tossed six scoreless innings in a 5-0 win over the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox in the series finale at Kauffman Stadium.
The win gave the Royals (45-56) their third consecutive series victory with three wins over the White Sox (60-43) in the four-game set.
“These guys just do need to realize how good they can be when we put things together,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve talked about it since the opener. Let’s put all the pieces together. Let’s see what it looks like when things are clicking, and we have some things clicking.”
Perez had two hits in the game as did first baseman Carlos Santana (2 for 3, two runs scored) and Nicky Lopez (2 for 3, triple). Hunter Dozier doubled and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Matheny also credited the recent run of solid starting pitching as contributing to the offensive production.
“We have more guys able to take the kind of at-bats that they want to take,” Matheny said. “Whether or not they’re having the success that they want to have every night or not it’s not really the case as much as they’re taking really good at-bats and you can see the large group in a good place offensively. Starting pitching allows us to do that.”
The Royals recorded their fifth shutout win of the season. Hernández, who made his third start of the season, bounced back from a rough outing against the Detroit Tigers in his previous start. He’d gone just 2 2/3 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on two hits and four walks in his previous start.
Thursday, Hernández (2-1) pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just four hits and one walk against the White Sox. He gave up only one extra-base hit and struck out four. He featured a fastball that reached 100 mph.
Royals starting pitchers have now registered quality starts in eight of their nine games eight of their last nine games.
The Royals led 5-0 when Hernández turned the game over to the bullpen. Left-hander Richard Lovelady pitched two scoreless innings of relief, and Wade Davis pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts.
“The entire staff, seeing what they’ve done is really motivating,” Hernández said with assistant strength and conditioning coach Luis Perez translating. “I want to be part of that. I’m following, and it’s definitely motivating.”
The Royals scored four runs in the first three innings. Following a one-out infield single by Santana, which snapped a 0-for-15 funk at the plate, Perez started the scoring with a two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the first.
Perez’s 25th homer of the season and 13th against left-handed pitching, came on a 2-1 fastball located on the outer half of the plate. Perez smashed it an estimated 446 feet, his second homer of the season off of White Sox starting pitcher and All-Star Carlos Rodon.
“He’s aggressive, and he’s one of the best lefties we’ve faced,” Perez said. “You see him throw some 100 mile per hour fastballs, 99, 98. … He likes to throw fastballs. He’s not scared.”
Perez entered the day batting .340 against left-handed pitchers. He now has seven homers of 440 feet or more this season, which ranks one behind MLB leaders Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Rodon appeared to say something in Perez’s direction as Perez rounded first base. Perez said he wasn’t even aware until it was pointed out to him and he saw video after the game ended.
“I know he said something, but I don’t know exactly what he said,” Perez said. “I’ve never had any problems with him. I don’t know. Hopefully we’ll find out soon. I don’t know. I’m going to keep doing my job. If he keeps leaving a fastball down the middle, I’m going to hit a homer again.”
Taylor’s leadoff homer in the second inning gave the Royals a 3-0 advantage over the White Sox. Like Perez, Taylor jumped all over a fastball and crushed it to center field. Taylor, who had the walk-off hit in Wednesday night’s win, now has nine home runs this season.
Dozier’s sacrifice fly in the third inning drove in the fourth run of the game. The Royals chased Rodon from the game after just four innings.
The Royals added their fifth and final run in the fifth inning when Jorge Soler reached on a fielding error, advanced to third base on a Dozier double and scored on a Taylor sacrifice fly.
Taylor fought his way through an 11-pitch plate appearance that included seven foul balls against White Sox reliever Reynaldo Lopez to deliver the sacrifice fly.