Baseball / Sports

Billy Butler, bullpen keep Royals rolling, defeat Giants

So, Billy Butler's base running boo-boo might have cost the Royals a big inning. If it had happened a month ago, howls would have blown across Kauffman Stadium.

But these are different times, winning times, and they are so in part thanks to Butler.

The Royals kept rolling Friday with a 4-2 victory over the Giants with Butler contributing three RBIs, including the go-ahead seeing-eye single to right in the sixth.

And there was the ball he put into orbit for his seventh home run of the season in the first.

Add it up, and the Royals have won 13 of 16, remained 2 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central race in the playoffs as the second wild card if the season ended Friday.

Enough to forgive Butler failing to reach third base from first after Alex Gordon sent a ball to the left field wall. Butler misread it and didn't go halfway.

Omar Infante got the decisive inning started with a one-out single. He moved to third when first baseman Michael Morse dove to stop Salvador Perez's soft one-hopper but threw wide of second.

That brought up Butler, who battled back from a 0-2 count to serve a bouncer through the hole on the right side.

The Royals had the lead, and the bullpen, as it usually does, bought it home.

The law firm of (Kelvin) Herrera, (Wade) Davis and (Greg) Holland did their thing over the final three innings, with a brief scare in the eighth. Davis surrendered a pair of singles to open the frame, but struck out pinch-hitter Joe Panik and got Matt Duffy to ground into a double play.

Holland recorded career save No. 100 in a perfect ninth inning.

Not to be lost in the effort was the sixth-inning performance of Jason Frasor, who struck out two in his perfect inning of relief of starter Jason Vargas.

Butler got the Royals off to a fast start.

The first pitch he saw on the night appeared low and inside, but home plate umpire Kerwin Danley called it a strike. Butler stepped out of the box to collect himself and a few pitches later, Butler's first-inning 422-foot home run cleared the left-field bullpen, scoring Omar Infante, who had doubled, ahead of him.

Butler had cracked the fourth home run of his last 13 games after hitting three in his first 100.

The Giants came within a foot or so of getting it all back and them some in the second. Juan Perez, who entered the game hitting .167, turned on a Vargas offering and sent it toward the left-field foul pole.

Perez and the Giants believed they had a three-run homer. An umpire crew chief review confirmed the original call. Foul.

But instead of powering up early, the Giants nicked away at Vargas. They put multiple runners on in each of the first three innings but didn't cash until the third when Joaquin Arias slapped an RBI double down the left-field line and Duffy delivered an RBI single to right.

The third could have been more productive for the Giants, but outfielder Nori Aoki gunned down not one but two runners in the inning.

Aoki's bullet to third was on line but a tad late to get the sliding Hunter Pence, but Pence's foot came off the bag while Mike Moustakas kept the tag on his helmet.

On Duffy's single, Arias tried to score from second, but Aoki's throw beat him by a couple of strides.

With that throw, Aoki joined Amos Otis in 1970 and Bob Oliver in 1969, the franchise's first year, in recording two outfield assists in an inning.

After Vargas' first clean inning in the fifth, his night was over. Butler and bullpen did their thing and the Royals roll continued.

(c)2014 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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