Salvy's jack in ninth stings Rays in rubber game

All-Star catcher's three-run shot has just enough juice to rescue KC

Salvy's jack in ninth stings Rays in rubber game

ST. PETERSBURG -- Going ... going ... but was it gone?

Nobody was quite sure after Salvador Perez lofted a high fly ball down the left-field line in the ninth inning on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.

"I was standing at home plate and it looked like it might go foul," Perez said. "And I saw the left fielder [Brandon Guyer] just keep running and running. I thought he might catch it, maybe not."

The result was a three-run homer that gave the Royals a 5-4 victory in the rubber game with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jarrod Dyson, scurrying back to third base, thought: "It looked like he was going to catch it at the wall."

"I didn't know," said manager Ned Yost, holding his breath in the dugout. "It looked like it was starting to hook a little bit. I wasn't sure if it was deep enough, but he hit it in the exact perfect spot."

Sure did. Perez's drive landed just beyond the wall, thumping loudly off an unused TV camera platform.

Closer Greg Holland pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts and the Royals finished their road trip with a 5-4 record. Now, they'll wrap up their pre-All-Star Game schedule with four games against first-place Detroit at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals are 4 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central standings, so they can't quite catch them, but they can close the gap.

"That was a huge win for us tonight," Yost said. "That was the difference between being two games over (.500) or four games over. And being 4 1/2 games back, compared to being 5 1/2 games back. So it's definitely nice to have a little momentum going home for the last four games before the All-Star break. It's a lot better than the alternative."

Rays right-hander Alex Cobb was opposing the Royals for the first time since June 15, 2013, when Eric Hosmer's line drive struck him near the ear, caused a concussion and put the pitcher out for two months.

In the first inning, Cobb struck out both Dyson and Lorenzo Cain on three pitches each but his next delivery, to Hosmer, was deposited into the right field stands. It was Hosmer's fifth home run and his first since June 15 at Chicago.

The Royals loaded the bases with no outs against Cobb in the fourth inning, but they got just one run out of it. Then, in the bottom half of the inning, the Rays also loaded the bases. They got a lot more.

Royals rookie Yordano Ventura was within one strike of getting out of the jam. On the other hand, Rays rookie right fielder Kevin Kiermaier just needed one pitch for his first career grand slam. Kiermaier prevailed. He sent a 1-2 pitch sailing into the right-field seats for a very sudden 4-2 lead.

"It was a changeup," Ventura said. "I threw two changeups and he looked really bad so I tried to throw another one, but I hung it, and he was able to get a piece of it."

Big piece of it.

"I still was ready for the fastball -- he throws 100 [mph]," Kiermaier said. "I saw the changeup out of his hand relatively early and I was happy to put a good swing on it, and it was up in the zone."

That score held until the ninth, an inning that Dyson opened with a single off reliever Joel Peralta. Then, before Cain struck out, Dyson swiped second base and knocked himself dizzy in the process.

"I ran into his knee. He was kind of in front of the bag a little bit," Dyson said. "Thank God I'm all right. If I wasn't a tiger, I'd be down."

Then, Dyson took third base unchallenged and Hosmer drew a walk. Peralta was relieved by Kirby Yates, another right-hander. He made Perez swing weakly and miss his first pitch, a sinking fastball. Yates tried another one.

"It was a sinker again, but he left it up a little bit," Perez said. "The first one was down-and-in and the second was up-and-flat."

Boom. Off flew the ball, soaring high under the roof, with everyone transfixed.

"I knew he hit it pretty good. I was hoping for it to hook foul," Yates said. "I didn't think he hit it that far, but he hit it pretty good."

Just far enough.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.