Billy Butler had a sense the Royals weren’t intimidated in the least after falling behind 5-0 to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
"We didn’t care," Butler said. "We knew we could come back ….
"If you have the slightest inkling that you can’t come back, you won’t. But not one single guy in that dugout felt that way."
And with that determination, the Royals roared back into a 5-5 tie, as starter Jeremy Guthrie shook off a dreadful five-run second inning and kept the Royals in it.
Then up came Butler with one on and one out in the fifth. And like he did the previous night, Butler blasted a tremendous two-run homer just shy of the Royals Hall of Fame building. This shot landed 433 feet from home plate; Friday night’s was 422.
"I knew it was gone," Butler said.
But this time, Butler didn’t stare the homer down, as he did the night before.
"Different circumstances," he said, smiling. "It’s something I don’t normally do. I usually hit it and start jogging."
Butler’s homer was enough as the Royals hung on for a 7-5 win — their fifth straight.
The win had so many elements to it, manager Ned Yost had trouble identifying them all.
"Jeremy, what he did to keep us in it, that was huge," Yost said.
— JGuts soldiers on. It was an awful second inning for Guthrie as he threw a zillion pitches and gave up five runs, digging the Royals a massive hole. But Guthrie, like the pro that he is, reached deep and gave the Royals 5 2/3 innings to spare their tired bullpen. More important, Guthrie shut down the Indians after that and allowed the Royals to stage the comeback. Would it be redundant to say that it was a gutsy effort?
"Ned said after the second inning that if I could keep us close, we could come back," Guthrie said. "I can’t say I believed him. But the offense never gave up."
— The bullpen. Tip your hat another night for a superb job by the bullpen. Scott Downs got an important out in the sixth to preserve the lead. Then Kelvin Herrera, after Downs put two runners on with no outs in the seventh, mowed down three straight Indians. Wade Davis came in and wobbled a bit in the eighth, allowing two runners on. But he got a called strike past Jose Ramirez on a beautiful slider. Then, of course, Greg Holland came on to finish it in the ninth.
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"The whole pen has just been phenomenal all year," Yost said. "They have gone above and beyond all year."
— Clutch hits. The second- and third-biggest hits of the day belonged to Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki. With two outs and two on in the fourth, Escobar delivered a clutch RBI single to right that pulled the Royals within 5-2. Then Aoki, on a 3-2 pitch, rifled a triple into the right-field corner. That made it 5-4. Aoki scored a moment later on a passed ball and it was tied. Butler’s second straight day of heroics couldn’t have happened without Esky and Aoki pulling the Royals back in it.
— Guthrie’s mental error. Rarely do you see a veteran of Guthrie’s quality have such a total mental lockdown as he did in the second inning. The Indians kept getting hits and piling on runs, but finally it looked like the Royals were going to get out of the inning. Ramirez hit a hard grounder down the line that Butler snared behind first. Butler got up to flip to the pitcher covering — only Guthrie forgot to cover first.
"I just froze," Guthrie said. "I thought it was foul. I hesitated and by then it was too late. That cost us another hit and another run."
— Bad call. In the Royals’ seventh, Alex Gordon was up against left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. A pitch rode in on Gordon and clipped him on the wrist as he tried to get away. The maneuver cost Gordon because as he turned away with the bat in his hand, it might have looked like a swing. At least it did to the third-base umpire, who ruled it a strike on appeal. Gordon and Yost were in disbelief. Gordon later in the at-bat struck out.
"You can’t argue, it’s like balls and strikes," Yost said. "Not the right call."
— Not a great night for Dyson.Jarrod Dyson came up twice early with a chance to do some damage. But he hit a weak grounder with two on and two out in the second inning. Then with runners on first and third and one out in the fourth and needing only a grounder to plate a run, he was out on three pitches, taking strike three.