Pena’s hustle allowed Butler to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and the Kansas City Royals went on to beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3 Monday. Butler had a career-high five hits and drove in three runs.
Butler led off the seventh with a double to right-center off Matt Albers (1-4), advanced when Miguel Olivo grounded out for the second out and scored when the 5-foot-8, 247-pound Pena beat Melvin Mora‘s throw on a slow chopper to the third-base side of the mound.
“(Pena) put in a good fight. It was a big at-bat. I was just happy to see him get a hit out of it,” Butler said. “We got the lead right there and never looked back.”
Five of Kansas City’s 14 hits were infield singles. The Royals dribbled balls dead in the grass, off gloves of diving fielders and nicked third base for hits.
“We don’t have a lot of team speed. When you’ve got Pena and Butler both getting infield hits, they’ve got to be well placed,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
None was more important than Pena’s perfectly situated bouncer.
“That was a situation where the team needed a run. I battled during that at-bat and was able to put the ball in play,” Pena said. “I knew it would be close at first, so I run as hard as I could. I was excited about what I did.
Robinson Tejeda (1-0) pitched three scoreless innings of relief.
The Royals won for the second time in 13 games despite stranding 12 runners. Joakim Soria worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 18 opportunities.
Adam Jones homered and had two RBIs for Baltimore, which lost for the eighth time in 10 tries.
Left-hander Rich Hill, pitching to retain his spot in the Orioles rotation, got behind 1-0 in the first. Willie Bloomquist singled, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on Butler’s liner to left.
“The tempo of the game’s got to be established right from the get-go,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “You got to go out and your tempo’s got to be fast-paced. You got to throw strikes and you got to put a zero up in that first inning. You can’t fall behind.”
Jones tied it in the bottom of the inning, hitting his 15th homer off an 0-2 pitch from Bruce Chen.
Chen’s wildness cost him in the second. He loaded the bases with two outs before hitting Jones in the backside with a pitch to force in a run.
Successive doubles by Alberto Callaspo, Butler and Mark Teahan put the Royals ahead 3-2 in the third.
Hill departed after allowing three runs on four hits in 2 1-3 innings. He walked three and struck out one.
After the game, Hill said he had been dealing with nagging shoulder pain all season, but didn’t excuse his latest subpar effort.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to give any kind of consistent help to this team,” Hill said. “I apologize to the front office and the guys in this clubhouse. It’s not something where I go out there and this is what I want.”
Trembley wasn’t willing to commit to Hill, probably because the shoulder problem will dictate how the Orioles proceed.
“That’s something I’m not ready to say right now,” Trembley said when asked if Hill would get another start.
Matt Wieters‘ bases-loaded single tied the game for Baltimore in the fifth, but left fielder Ryan Freel threw out Nolan Reimold at the plate to end the inning, erasing the potential go-ahead run.
Chen, seeking his first victory since Oct. 2, 2005, when he pitched for the Orioles, departed after throwing 99 pitches in five innings. He yielded three runs on eight hits, walked two, hit two batters and struck out six.
Butler added an RBI single in the eighth.
Orioles 1B Aubrey Huff snapped an 0-for-14 drought with a first-inning single. … RHP Kyle Farnsworth, on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin strain that has sidelined him since June 25, was scheduled to throw 45 pitches in the bullpen at Triple-A Omaha on Monday. If all goes well, he will pitch an inning Tuesday on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. … Bloomquist swiped his career-high 17th base in the first.