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Butler gives up 2 HRs but helps save bench

MLB.com

DENVER -- Eddie Butler's line wasn't ideal in Thursday's 7-6 loss to the D-backs; the six runs he gave up is the second most he's allowed in any start this season. However, his ability to work his way through five innings proved crucial.

After Butler surrendered two runs in the top of the fourth -- after four scored in the third -- he was due to bat fourth in the bottom of the inning. Manager Walt Weiss decided to stick with him, saving a pinch-hitter from being burned early and staying out of the bullpen for one more inning.

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DENVER -- Eddie Butler's line wasn't ideal in Thursday's 7-6 loss to the D-backs; the six runs he gave up is the second most he's allowed in any start this season. However, his ability to work his way through five innings proved crucial.

After Butler surrendered two runs in the top of the fourth -- after four scored in the third -- he was due to bat fourth in the bottom of the inning. Manager Walt Weiss decided to stick with him, saving a pinch-hitter from being burned early and staying out of the bullpen for one more inning.

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The decision paid off, as Butler successfully sacrificed over two runners before throwing a scoreless fifth inning, his final frame. Saving the pinch-hitter also allowed Daniel Descalso to get a hit off the bench and score the tying run in the eighth.

"It's critical," Weiss said. "I really didn't want to go to the bullpen any earlier than that. That fifth inning, throwing up a zero right there, kept the game intact and gave us a chance. If we have to go any earlier than that, it would have gotten interesting."

Butler ran into trouble early, allowing two-run homers to Socrates Brito and Jake Lamb in the third inning. This is the third time in four appearances that he has allowed multiple homers.

"He's a two-seam guy, and when two-seam guys get the ball elevated, they run into some trouble," Weiss said. "Eddie's bread and butter is that two-seamer diving into the bottom of the zone and guys hitting the top of the ball, and that's when he's at his best."

Butler has been throwing slightly more pitches in the zone this season than before, which has helped cut his walk rate from 11.4 percent last season to 5.4 percent in 2016, but the results on batted balls haven't been ideal, as he hasn't been able to keep the ball down.

Going into the game, Butler's ground ball rate was down to a career-low 43.7 percent, while a career-high 19.1 percent of fly balls have gone for home runs, which is 12th-worst in baseball among pitchers with at least 40 innings.

"I've been able to keep the ball in the zone, been throwing off-speed pitches for strikes," he said. "That's something that worked early for us today, but in the third and fourth inning, I started bouncing my curveball two feet in front of the plate, throwing my slider out of the zone. It's just a combination of things that hurt me later. When I can get all those things working together well, you get the quick innings like the first two and the last one. It's just a matter of being consistent."

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Eddie Butler