Salvador Perez tied Johnny Bench’s record for homers in a season by a catcher with his 45th, but Chad Pinder’s two-run single spurred a third-inning rally and the Oakland Athletics held off the Kansas City Royals 7-2 Thursday.
Perez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, matching Bench’s total from 1970 for the most by a player who played at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher. Perez is tied with Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major league lead in homers and also leads the bigs with 112 RBIs.
“We’re witnessing a special season," manager Mike Matheny said. "We’re witnessing a special player. To be able to be put in the conversation with one most would say is the best ever is pretty rare.”
His talent is not lost on the opposition.
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“Salvador, it seems like he’s hitting a home run a day against everybody,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “You can’t miss against him right now.”
Oakland started the day 3 1/2 games behind Toronto, Boston and the New York Yankees for the two AL wild cards.
Pinder delivered a two-out hit during a four-run third inning in which Oakland had seven runners reach base — with just two hits. The A’s also scored three runs in the ninth on just one hit.
“We’ll draw some walks,” Melvin said. “Obviously there were some wild pitches that moved some runners up. We got big hits when we needed to. When you put a crooked number up, it has an emotional effect on the other side.”
The Royals had the tying runs on base with less than two outs in the sixth and eighth innings but couldn’t score.
Paul Blackburn (1-2) battled through five-plus innings for Oakland, yielding two runs on six hits.
Daniel Lynch (4-5) took the loss. He left the game in the third inning with left calf tightness with the bases loaded and a full count on Matt Olson. He gave up three runs (one earned) on two hits in two-plus innings. He also walked one and hit two batters.
Matheny said it turned out to be a cramp that wouldn’t let up.
Perez is three homers away from matching Jorge Soler’s team record from 2019. Soler extended the Royals’ record by 10. Perez also tied Mike Sweeney for second on the club’s all-time list with 197. George Brett holds the club record with 317.
Only one of Oakland’s runs in the third was earned. The A’s had seven batters reach base, with only two on hits. Josh Harrison’s single drove in Elvis Andrus with the first run. Jed Lowrie reached on an error, scoring another run, and Pinder’s two-run single capped the inning.
A’s RHP Mike Fiers, who has missed most of the season with a sprained right elbow, had a rehab start Tuesday. He will have another rehab appearance on Saturday, likely out of the bullpen. ... 3B Matt Chapman hit in the cage Thursday. Melvin said if all went well, Chapman would have a chance to be in the lineup Friday. Chapman fouled a ball off his shin/foot last Saturday and hasn’t played since.
Athletics: LHP Cole Irvin (9-13, 4.04 ERA) pitches the opener of a series at the Los Angeles Angels.
Royals: RHP Brady Singer (4-10, 4.85) faces Seattle to start a home series Friday.
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