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Butler belts first spring homer against Brewers

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MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun homered in his return, but the Royals emerged with a 5-4 victory in the first of two exhibition games at Miller Park.

Braun, in his first at-bats at home since a 65-game suspension erased the latter part of his 2013 campaign, laced an opposite-field double in his first at-bat and crushed a three-run homer to center in the third inning that gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead.

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Royals starter Jason Vargas walked Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks with two outs before Braun delivered the big blow. Vargas allowed three runs in three innings on just two hits, with two walks and a strikeout, but the Kansas City bullpen took it from there with a combined seven strikeouts in six innings, while yielding just one run on three hits with one walk.

"I thought the entire pitching staff did great tonight," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I was really pleased with all the bullpen. I thought the bullpen was fantastic. ... I thought Vargy threw the ball very well. Kind of lost command a little bit in the third inning with two walks and got a pitch up to Braun, but besides that I was pleased with his effort, too."

The Royals bounced back offensively in the fourth, scratching across three runs against Brewers starter Matt Garza to take a 4-3 lead. Mike Moustakas delivered an RBI single, while former Brewers outfielder Nori Aoki (groundout) and Alcides Escobar (infield single) plated the next two.

Center fielder Lorenzo Cain, another former Brewer, drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly after Salvador Perez doubled to lead off the second. Cain also made a spectacular leaping catch against the wall in center field, robbing a man who regularly makes those snares in the same territory, reigning Gold Glove center fielder Carlos Gomez.

Garza, whose pitch count was already expected to be limited in his final tuneup before the regular season, allowed four runs -- two earned -- on six hits in 3 2/3 innings, with a pair of walks, a strikeout and a wild pitch. Two of his runs crossed after Aramis Ramirez dropped a chopper at third base in the fourth. He was coming off a start on March 23 in which he allowed one run on four hits in six innings.

"Last start, I felt great; I think it was more of just timing [tonight[," Garza said. "It's not a quick fix, but it's an easier fix than any other mechanical stuff. I'm ready to roll."

Garza said he was pushing for five innings with his pitch count of roughly 75, but he pointed to a rushed delivery as part of the reason he fell short of the goal.

"My execution wasn't on point, but I battled and tried to get through it," the right-hander said.

Billy Butler launched his first home run of the spring season with a blast to left-center in the fifth off Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg to give Kansas City a 5-3 lead. Thornburg, who impressed to the tune of a 2.03 ERA in more than 66 big league innings last season (allowing one home run), has surrendered six home runs this spring in 17 innings.

Up next: The Royals wrap up their Spring Training schedule against the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at Miller Park. Yordano Ventura and Jeremy Guthrie will split the pitching duties for the Royals. Marco Estrada will start for the Brewers. Ventura will pitch the third game at Detroit on Thursday and Guthrie will work the home opener against the White Sox next Friday at Kauffman Stadium. After the game, the Royals will leave for Detroit where they'll work out at Comerica Park at 10 a.m. on Sunday in preparation for Monday's season opener.

JR Radcliffe is a contributor to

Kansas City Royals, Nori Aoki, Billy Butler, Jason Vargas