Return of the Billy Bomb: Two-run pinch-hit blast carries Royals to fourth straight win
Sal Perez and Mike Moustakas going back-to-back jacks in the second inning was nice, but it's Billy Butler who stole the show Friday night when he cranked a two-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth to give the Royals a 6-4 win over the Tribe.
Billy Butler really enjoyed watching his 422-foot blast leave the park Friday night.
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By Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Billy Butler rarely stays around home plate after hitting a home run, always careful not to show up the other team.
But considering all that Butler has been through this season, and how much this home run meant -- a two-run pinch-hit bomb in the eighth that carried the Royals over Cleveland, 6-4, for their fourth straight victory -- Butler decided he was going to break his own rule.
"I really wanted to enjoy it," Butler said of his 422-foot blast that landed just shy of the Royals' Hall of Fame building.
And who could blame him? Butler's struggles this season have been well documented. His power numbers -- just three homers before Friday -- are way down. And just this week, manager Ned Yost decided to sit Butler in Chicago against a left-hander, and then sat him again Friday.
Yet Butler has not complained.
"By no means am I having a good year," he said. "I know that. But (Yost) has a job to do and he has to put out the best lineup he can. I just have to work to get back in it.
"I feel I have a track record in this game, but this is a game about winning. It's about what you have done lately. And I have had some bad results."
Butler's teammates couldn't have been happier for him as they bear-hugged him relentlessly in the dugout after the homer, and then drenched him with a Gatorade shower not once, but twice after the game.
"I still consider him the best hitter on this team," catcher Sal Perez said. "He's having a down year. It can happen to anyone."
-- The Moose and Sal show. Perez belted his 12th homer to lead off the second inning, tying him with Mike Moustakas for the team lead. That lasted just a few moments as Moose got up next and bombed one into the right-field bullpen to retake the team lead. It was the first time the Royals had back-to-back jacks since April 23. That was in Cleveland and also by Perez and Moose.
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"The teams that come up with the big hits almost always win," Yost said. "And when you get power, you don't need that many hits to score runs."
-- Raul's hustle. Raul Ibanez definitely is finding his stroke. He singled sharply in the second inning down the right-field line. Then with Alex Gordon on first and two out in the fourth, Ibanez drilled another shot into the right-field corner. Indians outfielder David Murphy had trouble picking it up as the ball rolled off the wall. The 42-year-old legged out a triple -- the oldest Royal to ever hit a triple -- and then scored when the throw to third went into the Indians' dugout.
-- Crow last in line? Aaron Crow was virtually Yost's last pitcher he could have used, so it was fortunate that Crow worked around a leadoff double to retire the Indians in the ninth. The rest of the bullpen had been spent in Thursday's marathon win and earlier in the game Friday.
"We could have probably used Scott Downs for a hitter or two," Yost said. "But Crow really was it. I wound up having to send Bruce Chen (Sunday's starter) down to the pen just in case."
-- Sloppy defense. The Royals did themselves no favors defensively. When the Indians tied it at 4-4 in the seventh, Moustakas fielded Yan Gomes' routine grounder and threw high to Ibanez at first. After a blooper by Murphy (does he ever hit a ball hard?) and a sacrifice, Jason Kipnis hit a pop-up to short right field. But second baseman Omar Infante and right fielder Lorenzo Cain both froze on the ball. Infante shouldn't have quit chasing it until Cain called him off. And Cain wrongly thought Infante had it -- outfielders are taught to take all such pop-ups. Cain did make a remarkable stumbling catch finally, but the runner on third scored easily.
As he often does, Yost had his players' backs: "It was just a really tough in-between ball there."
-- Bad luck. While the Indians notched that soft, soft run, the Royals hit into some bad luck two straight innings. With two on and two out in the sixth, Nori Aoki, the hero the last two games, drilled a line drive that was snared by shortstop Jose Ramirez. Then in the seventh, again with a runner in scoring position, Infante smoked a liner toward left that again was snared by Ramirez.
-- Don't throw heat to Santana. Yordano Ventura pitched a fine game -- a quality start, in fact. But he and Perez made probably one critical mistake when they fed fastball-hitting Carlos Santana just what he craves -- a fastball on a 3-2 pitch in the sixth. Santana, who already had homered earlier in the game, blasted this fastball for a two-run shot.
"The first homer wasn't a bad pitch," Yost said. "The second one, yeah maybe, it was a little up. But Santana is a good hitter."
Ventura wound up going 6 1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs while fanning seven.