Butler's doubles hand Royals tight win
KC first baseman hits three two-baggers, two for RBIs
CHICAGO -- Gil Meche has yet to return to the form that made him a stalwart on Kansas City's pitching staff earlier this season. In two starts since missing a month with an ailing back, he hasn't even lasted beyond the fifth inning.
But five innings was all Meche needed on Tuesday night to pick up a victory against the White Sox. Although Meche didn't pitch his best, he received plenty of help, both offensively and defensively, and left with a one-run lead that held up in a 5-4 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
"The way I pitched, yeah, it was really nice to come out with a win," Meche said. "I didn't really throw any pitches with consistency the whole night. I was everywhere. The fastball wasn't good. I didn't feel bad. I just had no life on the ball. Just trying to stay in there as much as I could. It wasn't pretty, like I said, but it got a 'W.'"
Meche (6-9) lasted five innings and gave up four runs on eight hits before exiting the contest with 105 pitches, 54 for strikes.
Billy Butler and Willie Bloomquist each played a large role in helping out Meche. Butler stroked three doubles -- all in the first five innings -- and became the first Royals player to record three different three-double games in one season in franchise history. With 41 doubles, he is on pace to hit 55 two-baggers -- which would break Hal McRae's club record of 54 set in 1977.
"I'm just trying to go up there and hit it hard," the 23-year-old Butler said. "I can't place it. I'm just looking for pitches to hit. Ultimately, when I get two strikes, I'm just trying to put the barrel on the ball and it's just working out."
Butler's first double came in the top of the first, but did not produce any runs. His second occurred in the third inning with the Royals trailing, 1-0, when he lined a double down the left-field line -- scoring the speedy Bloomquist from first to tie the game at 1.
"Billy was lights-out with the doubles to all areas," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "It was good to see us keep battling back."
In the bottom of the third, Meche surrendered a pair of home runs to fall behind, 4-1. Paul Konerko lined a pitch to right-center field for a solo home run and a 2-1 White Sox lead. And following an A.J. Pierzynski single, Carlos Quentin ripped a two-run shot to left-center field, going 407 feet, for a three-run cushion.
But the Royals displayed some fight, pinning two runs on the board in both the fourth and fifth innings to finally snatch the lead.
In the fourth, John Buck clocked a two-run home run to left field, scoring Mark Teahen who had reached base on a ground-rule double one batter earlier. And in the fifth, Butler smacked his third double of the contest, scoring Bloomquist once more from first, tying the game at 4. Butler's double knocked White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia from the game.
"You know, 40-something doubles with six weeks left to play is pretty impressive," Meche said. "Everybody in here realizes what kind of guy we have on our team, even if he is only 23 years old. He's a special talent. He's going to be one of those guys that everybody is going to talk about for a long time."
With reliever Randy Williams in the game for Garcia, Butler moved to third on Mike Jacobs' groundout and scored on Alberto Callaspo's single to left field for the Royals' first lead of the game, 5-4.
It turned out to be the final run of the game.
"You would never have thought that would have been the last run that might have been scored," Bloomquist said. "Both teams have got really good bullpens, so you never know when the changing point of the game is going to be, so we've got to try and make every play count."
Bloomquist actually was involved in a play that proved to be the turning point of the game just a half-inning later.
With nobody out and two runners on base against Meche in the bottom of the fifth, Bloomquist caught a fly ball from Alexei Ramirez and pegged Quentin trying to score from third for what would have been the tying run. The throw easily beat Quentin, and Buck applied the tag for an easy out. Two batters later, Meche sent down Scott Podsednik swinging to end the fifth.
Bloomquist said he wasn't surprised to see the White Sox send Quentin.
"I'm not really known as having an outfield cannon, I guess, so to speak," Bloomquist said. "I haven't really gotten a lot of opportunities to throw guys out. In that situation, it's just kind of homework I guess beforehand that they do. They thought they had a chance to score, and I probably would have sent the guy, too. Fortunately for us, I made a decent throw and I got the guy out."
Royals reliever Robinson Tejeda entered in relief for Meche and shut down the White Sox for three innings. He did not allow a hit and struck out five Chicago hitters.
"Tejeda was very, very good," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He was throwing changeups in fastball counts. He threw strikes when he needed to. The last four innings, the game was very boring."
In the ninth, Royals closer Joakim Soria sent the White Sox down in order, although he made Royals fans cringe when he appeared to tweak his ankle -- landing awkwardly on his second pitch to start the inning against Jermaine Dye. It drew a visit from the team trainer and Hillman.
"I didn't want anything to happen to his arm because he's got something tweaked on the lower half," Hillman said. "It could have been worse."
But for the Royals, the result of Tuesday's game couldn't have been any better.
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.