Designated hitter almost tagged out after baserunning lapse in ninth inning
SEATTLE -- Designated hitter Billy Butler and first-base coach Rusty Kuntz had an emotional exchange in the ninth inning on Saturday night as the Royals' 3-1 loss to the Mariners almost -- but not quite -- ended on an unexpected sour note.
There were two out when Butler gave the Royals a last-ditch hope by rifling a hit down the left-field line. Butler thought he had a shot at a double, then realized he didn't but, returning to first base, just barely beat Robinson Cano's quick throw. If Butler had been out, the game would have ended with the Royals' chance to tie the score going up in smoke.
As it was, there seemed to be a little smoke coming out of Kuntz and Butler's ears after the near-miss.
"He finally made a hard turn and that's what we were trying to make him do forever," Kuntz said. "And then it's like he's got to get his butt back there because Cano was THAT guy. In normal circumstances that works but not with Cano. And he goes, 'You're right, I agree.' "
Cano got the throw from the outfield at second base and whipped the ball to first baseman Justin Smoak. Butler was back safely, but barely.
"It was one of those things where it was down the line and you're assuming two," Butler said. "Really, at that moment, you can't hear anybody. He's doing his job, I'm doing mine. I respect Rusty more than anybody -- he's the best baserunning guy I've ever been around. So if he's yelling at you, you're probably doing something wrong. I was just lucky enough to not be that wrong, where I couldn't get back."
It was Cano's dangerous "back-pick" throw that Kuntz had been cautioning the Royals about.
"Smoak is always ready for it because Cano always does it," Kuntz said. "[Butler] was saying he remembered but, at that time, he forgot. I said, 'You cannot forget that, man, you cannot forget that.' "
Butler indicated their exchange was just a heat-of-the-moment thing.
"He's that type of passionate guy, just like I am when I'm playing," Butler said. "It's just one of those things where he was getting after me and I reacted. That should never happen. If I have something to say to him, we should do it afterward, underneath. So that one's on me and that can't happen. I got caught up in the moment and had a lot of adrenaline going and I've just got to be more aggressive getting back to the base."
For Kuntz, there was no lingering hard feeling.
"I wasn't necessarily mad at him, I was mad at the situation because we go over that all the time as far as Cano," Kuntz said. "That's a red flag. Any time he's got the ball in his hand, you've got to keep one eye on him and one eye on getting back to the base. But he made it back so it was all right."
Justin Maxwell pinch-ran for Butler -- Jarrod Dyson was being held to run for Salvador Perez if he got on, too -- but Perez grounded into a forceout to end the game.
"All in all, it was all for naught because I didn't get picked off," Butler said. "Rusty was just trying to make sure I didn't do it again."