Salvador Perez gave the Kansas City Royals the faintest of silver linings Friday night.
The 22-year-old catcher came off the disabled list and hit a two-run homer, and even though the Royals were routed 11-4 by the cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals, his season debut gave managed Ned Yost a reason to be optimistic going forward.
Even if Yost was quick to bemoan the rest of the night.
"Yeah," Yost said, "we kind of ruined his welcome-home party with that game."
Carlos Beltran hit two-run doubles his first two at-bats in his return to Kauffman Stadium, and the Cardinals racked up 10 runs in the first two innings. David Freese and Tyler Greene added two RBIs each, and everybody in the starting lineup had a hit before the fourth inning ended.
Most of the Cardinals' offense came against Vin Mazzaro (3-2), who allowed seven runs, six hits, two walks and a hit batter while recording just four outs.
Mazzaro went six scoreless innings in a 3-2 win last Friday night at St. Louis.
"It was a tough one," he said. "Things didn't go my way. I didn't get down in the zone."
The result was plenty of offense for Joe Kelly (1-0), who gave up three runs over six shaky innings to pick up his first major league victory in his third career start.
"It feels pretty awesome," Kelly said. "I didn't have my best stuff, but my teammates were awesome tonight. Good defense, and they really hit the ball."
Just about the only bright spot for Kansas City in the opener of a three-game series was the return of Perez, who had been on the DL since spring training with a torn knee ligament. He was cheered in his return and finished with two hits.
"It felt great," he said through a translator.
The rest of the day felt downright miserable for Kansas City, starting with right-hander Felipe Paulino going on the DL with a torn elbow ligament early in the day, and getting worse with every pitch that Mazzaro threw to the plate.
His first three were balls to Rafael Furcal, and he eventually issued a walk. Jay was hit by a pitch, and Matt Holiday singled to load the bases for Beltran, whose two-run double off the wall in left field elicited a roar from a sellout crowd that included plenty of red shirts.
Yadier Molina added an RBI single, and Carpenter's sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
Mazzaro managed to escape the inning, and Kansas City got a run back on three straight base hits, with Eric Hosmer's slicing single to left bringing home Yuniesky Betancourt.
Mazzaro gave the run right back — and then some.
Furcal and Jay started the second with singles, and after Holliday flied out to left, Beltran delivered his second straight two-run double. Mazzaro was lifted from the game to a chorus of boos, and reliever Roman Colon didn't fare much better as St. Louis took a 10-1 lead.
"You get into the second inning, down six, all the matchups go out the window," Yost said. "Now you're just trying to survive and not use your whole pitching staff."
Beltran was responsible for much of the damage in his return to Kansas City.
The six-time All-Star was drafted by the Royals in 1995, and drove in 100 or more runs four times over six-plus seasons. But the Royals traded him to Houston in June 2004, anticipating that they wouldn't be able to pay Beltran the princely sum that he would get on the open market.
He eventually signed a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets.
Beltran landed with the Cardinals this season after a short stop in San Francisco, and faced the Royals for the first time last week in St. Louis, going 6 for 14 and driving in a run.
Beltran picked up right where he left off on Friday night.
This time, the rest of the Cardinals' offense joined in the fun.
"It's a good feeling any time you can contribute," Beltran said. "This place brings a lot of good memories. Kansas City was my home for six years and a half, and I got to meet some good people. I have a lot of good memories from here."
Notes: The Royals optioned LHP Tommy Hottovy to Triple-A Omaha. ... St. Louis optioned OF Adron Chambers and 1B Matt Adams to Triple-A Memphis. ... The Cardinals have won nine of their last 12 in Kansas City. ... Freese and Holliday both reached base four times. ... Royals relievers lead the major leagues with 268 1-3 innings pitched this season. ... RHP Adam Wainwright starts Saturday for St. Louis. RHP Luis Mendoza goes to the mound for Kansas City.