Maybe it's the barbecue sauce. Maybe it's Ned Yost's lineup epiphany. Maybe it's the presence of George Brett in uniform every day, giving the Kansas City Royals back their swagger, the guts that defined the franchise for a generation.

In truth, it's probably all of those things. Also, this:

Since June 4, when catcher Salvador Perez returned from the bereavement list, the Royals are 11 up, five down, and full of Fanta again. Of those 16 contests, they've allowed two runs or fewer nine times.

June's Royals are April's Royals again, mojo rising, with Big Sal acting as the rock, the pillar, the solder that keeps the chassis in one piece during the inevitable, grinding laps of summer.

Not every day is sunshine and rainbows, as a bumpy end to an otherwise productive road trip to Tampa and Cleveland will attest. But funny how the clouds tend to part whenever Big Sal is around, silently directing traffic, carefully leading the ships back safely into the harbor.

For the better part of two years now, the name of the 23-year-old Venezuelan has been tossed about as a prospective All-Star -- a perennial All-Star, even -- given time.

Guess what, kids?

That time is now.

You name the metric, Big Sal can make a case. Need a stick? As of Wednesday night, the 6-foot-3 backstop ranked third among starting American League catchers in batting average (.303 heading into the final game of the Indians series) and fourth in Wins Above Replacement (1.3), according to