The Royals showed the entire baseball world the heart of champion by rallying for seven runs in the bottom of ninth inning to take an 8-7 walkoff win over the White Sox Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
This was more than a game for the Kansas CIty Royals, it was a gut check after the team suffered what appeared to be a devastating injury to the heart and soul of their club in catcher Salvador Perez. When rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slammed into Perez’s knee as the three-time Gold Glove winning catcher attempted to field a pop foul, Kauffman Stadium was as quiet as a tomb.
Perez pounded the dirt in agony and frustration after the collision. He left the field with help from the Royals training staff.
Fans cared far less about what appeared to be a lost game with the KC Royals trailing 7-1 in the ninth inning. Instead, they feared that Perez would miss the rest of the season just like Mike Moustakas discovered on Thursday afternoon.
Rather than let the game go in despair, the Kansas City Royals launched a seven-run rally to take an 8-7 victory.
Paulo Orlando opened the ninth inning with a strikeout, against Chicago closer David Robertson—who had been inserted into the game just to get work with a six run lead. But rookies Cheslor Cuthbert and Brett Eibner singled and doubles to give the first dawn of hope to Kansas City Royals fans. Escobar walked and Whit Merrifield drove in two runs with an RBI single that also notched his fifth consecutive multi-hit game.
With the score 7-4, Kauffman Stadium began to believe.
Lorenzo Cain grounded to second base with runners on first and third, but beat out the relay throw to avoid a double play. Not only did a run score to pull KC within two runs, his hustle kept the inning alive.
Hosmer doubled into the left-center gap to score Cain, which caused Chicago manager Robin Ventura to pull Roberston. Tommy Kahnle came into face light-hitting catcher Drew Butera, who had replaced Perez, and he doubled to tie the score at 7-7.
With Kauffman Stadium sensing the meaning of the moment, Butera went to third on a wild pitch as the rattled Kahnle threw the ball past his catcher while executing an intentional walk. Orlando went to first on the walk, and when he advanced to second on defensive indifference, Chicago also intentionally walked Jarrod Dyson to bring rookie Brett Eibner to the plate.
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Eibner singled home the tying run as the home crowd burst into a celebration.
The comeback was more than a rally to win one game. It was a statement to the rest of major-league baseball that the 2015 World Champions are still a force to be reckoned with no matter how many setbacks they might suffer.
At this point, no one knows the status of Salvador Perez‘s knee. He’s certainly going to need an examination from an orthopedic surgeon to determine his status. But the Kansas City Royals demonstrated the mental strength to overcome adversity just like they have in the last two post-seasons.
[UPDATE: Early reports indicate Perez suffered a quadriceps muscle contusion without structural damage to the knee, per Ned Yost]
All of those historic comebacks over the last two season and a quarter aren’t an accident. They come from a team that finds the best within themselves when pushed.
Right now, everyone in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, and their fans across the country, know that the season is far from over no matter what news the next fews days might bring.
The Royals have just sent a chilling message to the rest of the AL Central: you’re not going to take our crown without a fight.