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Salvador Perez on Royals' recent surge: 'I feel like we're in 2013 right now'

Kansas City Star logoKansas City Star 9/17/2020 By Lynn Worthy, The Kansas City Star

Salvador Perez’s reading of the tea leaves may be overly optimistic or perhaps he’s rightfully and abundantly hopeful. Either way, the Kansas City Royals’ star catcher feels like this is the year before the year.

The Royals went into their day off on Thursday having won seven of their last eight games. Ten games remain in the regular season. While not mathematically eliminated, the Royals (21-29) were 5 1/2 games out of the final wild card playoff spot on Thursday morning.

When asked by The Star if there’s significant carryover effect to a strong finish to this season, Perez beckoned to the season leading up to their back-to-back World Series runs.

“I feel like we’re in 2013 right now,” Perez said.

The Royals were six games under .500 at the All-Star break but finished 86-76 in 2013. They went on to win the AL Wild Card Game in 2014 and then advanced to the World Series before they lost to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 with the tying run 90 feet away. In 2015, they won the World Series over the New York Mets.

“We’ve got some great arms, some great pitching, great offense,” Perez said. “I think we’re pretty close to being back in the playoffs. That’s the thing we want. I feel like 2013, like I said. We won’t forget finishing strong. I think that’s an important thing right now.”

Pitching has certainly served as the major catalyst for their recent success.

The club announced on Thursday that Danny Duffy will make his next start on Friday after having been skipped on Tuesday — the team’s lone loss during this recent stretch — for missing the team flight to Detroit.

The Royals posted three shutouts during that stretch — including right-hander Brad Keller’s first career shutout — and rookie Brady Singer took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of one start and tossed six scoreless in his subsequent start. The bullpen registered a 1.86 ERA in the last eight games.

Offensively, the Royals have averaged six runs per game during the eight-game stretch despite being shut out in Tuesday’s loss.

Designated hitter and last year’s AL home run champion Jorge Soler has been on the injured list with a right oblique strain during this recent run.

However, Adalberto Mondesi’s recent resurgence — slash line of .308/.341/.564 with three homers, seven RBIs and eight stolen bases in his last 10 games — after having struggled badly for the first month of the season and the return of Perez from the IL have given the Royals a potent and dynamic top of the lineup with Merrifield batting in front of Mondesi and Perez.

“Mondi is just an electric player, and we’ve seen that in the last week, what he’s capable of,” Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield said. “We just hope that he continues to get some confidence from this, learn from this, and continues to get better. Because when he’s doing like he’s doing right now, like I’ve said for years now, he’s a potential MVP.”

It’s difficult to quantify what impact a strong finish will have going forward, especially when each offseason holds the potential for roster shake-ups and additions through free agency and trades as well as younger players making the jump from the minors to the big leagues.

The Royals players certainly seem to want to squeeze any and every benefit they can out of a late-season push and take advantage of whatever positives come from the residue of playing well down the stretch in the pandemic-shortened season.

“We’re playing good baseball right now,” Royals outfielder/infielder Hunter Dozier said at the end of their most recent homestand. “We want to finish strong. We had a meeting a couple days ago and that was something (Alex Gordon) mentioned. Let’s finish strong. Let’s get some momentum going towards next year. We’re just trying to focus on that.”

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