Although a sizzling stretch for Billy Butler has ended, he may be able to get back on track against Mark Buehrle as the Kansas City Royals try to boost their slim postseason hopes.
The Kansas City slugger has enjoyed success against Buehrle in the past, but the Toronto Blue Jays starter has won five straight decisions as he seeks to help end the Royals’ five-game win streak Friday night at Rogers Centre.
Butler was 0 for 3 with a walk in Thursday’s 3-1 victory at Minnesota after going 12 for 26 with two homers and seven RBIs over his previous six contests. He’s hitting .358 with five homers and 16 RBIs this month for Kansas City (69-64), which is six games behind Oakland for the AL’s second wild card with three other teams ahead of it.
“I couldn’t even tell you who’s ahead of us,” manager Ned Yost said. “My focus is if we win everything else takes care of itself.”
The Royals will see a familiar nemesis in Buehrle (10-7, 4.08 ERA), who has faced them a major league-high 49 times since the start of 2000. They last faced the former White Sox starter in 2011.
Butler has faced Buehrle more than any pitcher other than Detroit’s Justin Verlander. The Royals designated hitter is 20 for 57 (.351) with three homers against the left-hander.
Alex Gordon has the second-most at-bats against Buehrle among available Kansas City hitters, going 7 for 28. Gordon is 8 for 22 with two homers and seven RBIs during the Royals’ winning streak.
Buehrle is also streaking, going 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his last seven outings. He gave up one run over eight innings with seven strikeouts to earn Sunday’s 2-1 victory at Houston, joining the Yankees’ CC Sabathia with 13 straight seasons with at least 10 wins for the longest active streak in the majors.
“I’d rather forego some of the personal stuff for being in a better position than where we are right now,” Buehrle said. “At the end of the day when the season is over and you look at the season, I feel like I am having a decent season, but I have six or seven starts left, so I have to finish strongly and get as many wins as I can.”
Kansas City has outscored its opponents 34-8 during this win streak, including a 17-3 margin in a three-game sweep at Minnesota this week.
“This was a nice series for us,” Yost said. “We did everything really well, we pitched well, swung the bats well, played solid defense.”
Yost gave catcher Salvador Perez the day off from starting Thursday. Perez singled as a pinch hitter and has 12 hits in his last 23 at-bats.
Perez figures to be back behind the plate for Ervin Santana (8-7, 3.21), who is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in his last five starts at Toronto. Santana is 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA in eight outings since the All-Star break, with the Royals winning six of them.
Brett Lawrie is 1 for 8 against the right-hander but is hitting .370 in August.
Toronto (60-74) has won three of four following a seven-game slide. The Blue Jays have taken eight of the last 11 matchups, including two of three at Kansas City from April 12-14.