Royals' Perez ties Bench's HR mark for catchers

Royals' Perez ties Bench's HR mark for catchers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Royals slugger Salvador Perez tied Johnny Bench’s record for homers in a season by a catcher with his 45th in a 7-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on 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.

“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.”

Perez, 31, 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 home runs. George Brett holds the club record with 317.

After bouncing back from an elbow injury that caused him to miss all of the 2019 season with an elbow injury, Perez has been on a tear. His 56 home runs in 2020 and 2021 are the most in MLB over that span, while his 144 RBIs rank third.

If Perez, Guerrero and Shohei Ohtani (44) — from Venezuela, Canada and Japan, respectively — are atop the home run leaderboard until the season’s end, it will be the first time in MLB history that the top three leaders were all born outside the United States, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this story.