Model of consistency, Butler evens out slump
Angels learn hard way that Royals' designated hitter won't be down for long
OAKLAND -- Billy Butler had his coming-out party in the pleasant climes of California, southern side.
There has rarely been an occasion to celebrate a binge in Butler batsmanship, because he has usually been on a steady course. The Royals' designated hitter was usually reliable and undeterred. Just good ol' Billy, the guy who could always hit.
But after six weeks dotted with cold, rain, snow, a police manhunt and 10 off-days, both scheduled and unscheduled, Butler had the hitting blues. Going into Anaheim on Monday, he found himself in a 4-for-35 (.114) abyss, and, even worse, the team was sagging, with six losses in seven games.
Then, break out the party hats. The Royals won the series against the Angels, two games to one, and totaled 20 runs in their two victories. Butler drove in nine runs and went 8-for-13 in the three games. His haul included three doubles and one home run. And his average jumped 40 points, from .228 to .268.
Never mind that the series win came over a struggling Los Angeles club.
"We've had a rough stretch ourselves, so wins are wins; this is a big league team with a big league lineup, for sure," Butler said of the Angels. "It's good to take two out of three anywhere."
The series-opening victory was all high fives for Butler, who went 5-for-5 with five RBIs.
"I knew I'd been getting closer," he said afterward.
Butler put in even more work with hitting coach Jack Maloof, and his double and homer drove in both Royals runs in the second game, a loss. In the series finale, he had one hit, but it came with the bases loaded and drove in two runs.
"I've been hitting the ball hard consistently," Butler said. "Yeah, I had a little bit of a bad week, week-and-a-half there, but even before that, I was hitting balls hard right at people."
"I'm just finding a few holes now, too," he added. "The ball with the bases loaded, I didn't hit ridiculously hard -- just in the 5-6 hole. I hit the ball harder in the eighth, to right-center, but there was a guy there. It's where you put it, not how hard you hit it."
Butler's bases-loaded single in Game 3 came in the midst of a seven-run third inning, the Royals' biggest inning since 2011.
"We worked a couple walks," Butler said. "We had some balls find some holes, bases clearing. It's really good to have, the difference in the game."
After watching the Royals chase too many pitches in the second-game loss, manager Ned Yost held a hitters meeting to discuss working the count to get more hittable pitches.
As Yost put it earlier this season: "You can't come out of your natural abilities or try to make things happen out of the strike zone. If they're not going to throw you strikes, you've got to take your walks. And then trust that the guy behind you will take care of it for you."
Even Butler, who was drawing a lot of walks earlier in the season, might have been getting impatient. He was obviously listening.
"You've got to find ways to get on base without hits," Butler said. "We haven't walked a lot as a team, and we've got to be more patient. If it's not your pitch, you've got to take 'em until you get two strikes. You can't give in."
So in Wednesday night's win, the Royals had not only had 13 hits, but also six walks, and while they were at it, they made the Angels throw 175 total pitches.
"The first game and the one [Wednesday], we made the pitcher come to us and swung at the pitches we wanted to, and we had our kind of results," Butler said.
Going into Thursday's off-day, Butler was getting his kind of results as well. Not that Yost was surprised.
"Billy doesn't stay down for long," Yost said. "He had a great series, and once he heats up a little bit, he's pretty consistent."