The Mariners might have nightmares for a long time about Kansas City Royals slugger Salvador Perez.
Perez has been a one-man wrecking crew against the Mariners, whose playoff hopes have dwindled rapidly in his wake.
Perez hit grand slams Thursday and Friday that were pivotal in Royals victories, and although he missed on a chance to become the first player in MLB history to hit slams in three straight games, his two-run homer Saturday keyed the Royals’ 4-2 win at T-Mobile Park.
Kansas City led 1-0 in the top of the fifth inning when Nicky Lopez dunked a soft single to center field, bringing up Perez.
He jumped on the first pitch, a changeup from Mariners starter Tyler Anderson, and lined it off the top of the left-field wall.
The ball bounced over the wall instead of back on the field. The way Perez is going these days, of course it did, giving the Royals a three-run lead.
“He is seeing the ball very well right now, and he is getting great results,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Perez. “It happens. Guys get on a roll, they get on a hot streak and you try to make adjustments or stay away from them and you still make a mistake. And they’re not getting singles, they’re hitting homers.”
The Mariners, now 5 1/2 games behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, had plenty of chances, too. But they left 10 runners on base in the first five innings and 13 in the game.
“The story for this one, unfortunately, is not (having) timely hitting with runners in scoring position, something we have been very good at throughout the season,” Servais said. “We had a ton of traffic, we had a lot of hits and a lot of good at-bats. Those rallies sometimes came together with two outs and you need that big hit or that big double to get you some space and get offense going, and it just didn’t happen today.
The pressure was on Anderson to go deep into the game after the Mariners used eight relief pitchers in Friday’s 12-inning loss, and he certainly accomplished that by pitching into the eighth inning.
Not that it started well for the Mariners left-hander as Whit Merrifield hit Anderson’s second pitch of the game into the left-field seats.
But Anderson settled down. He worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the third inning, getting Perez — who got the bases-loaded situation he needed to make MLB history — to fly out to short left field for the first out of the inning,
Anderson mostly cruised thereafter except for the encounter with Perez in the fifth. He was relieved after allowing a leadoff single in the eighth inning.
Anderson allowed three runs on eight hits. He had no walks and six strikeouts.
“He did exactly what we hoped he could for us, and that was get deep in the ballgame,” Servais said. “He’s been so consistent since we’ve acquired him. … Outstanding performance from him.”
Anderson said he felt he threw the ball well, “but there were two pitches (to Merrifield and Perez) that I would obviously like back.”
“They weren’t that bad of pitches, but they were too good of pitches to those guys who are swinging the bat so hot … but overall, I think it was pretty good.”
The Mariners left runners on first and second in each of the first three innings, and they left the bases loaded in the fifth.
The Mariners scored their first run in the fifth, but they needed more. They loaded the bases with two outs against Royals starter Daniel Lynch, ending his outing after 104 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.
Domingo Tapia came in and walked Cal Raleigh — who fouled off three full-count pitches. That brought up Jarred Kelenic, who flew out to shallow left, leaving the bases loaded.
The Mariners’ chances started drying up, and they gave Kansas City a gift run in the ninth inning.
Emmanuel Rivera hit a high pop-up to short right-center with two outs, and Mariners second baseman Ty France completely lost it in the sun. That left it up to Kelenic in center field or Mitch Haniger in right field, but both watched it drop between them after they let up.
That brought out boos from the home crowd, which got louder when Gallagher drove home Rivera with a single.
The cheers returned when Haniger hit a two-out double in the bottom of the ninth and Luis Torrens followed with a run-scoring single. But Kansas City closer Scott Barlow got Kyle Seager to ground out to end the game.
It left the M’s with three straight losses to start the homestand against a team below .500.
But a team with Salvador Perez. And that was too much to overcome. Again.
“They have gotten the big hit, and we haven’t,” Servais said.