Royals down Tigers, savor two-game run
Butler, Jacobs drive rally with RBIs in the seventh frame
KANSAS CITY -- Here's a trivia question for you: How long has it been since the Royals won two games in a row?
Well, it was 39 games ago -- on July 27-28 at Baltimore. More than a month ago, 42 days in fact, but it seems more like a century.
Yet when the Royals rallied to defeat the Detroit Tigers, leaders of the American League Central, 7-5, on a damp Tuesday night, it gave them back-to-back victories at Kauffman Stadium. So much for Detroit's six-game winning streak.
The Royals also had salvaged the last game of a series against the Los Angeles Angels, the AL West leaders, on Labor Day, so their two wins have come over first-place clubs.
"People obviously are free to disagree, but I don't think we've quit at all, I really don't," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I still see effort, I still see energy. Guys get depressed a little bit when we lose as many games as we've lost, but it takes a heck of a lot of character to continue to come back against a first-place club after going 1-3 against another first-place club."
The Royals went ahead, 6-5, in the seventh inning despite a false step that might have caused them to just quit. Yet they didn't.
Yuniesky Betancourt led off with a single, was bunted to second by Willie Bloomquist and David DeJesus lined a single to left. Perfect -- except left fielder Ryan Raburn threw out Betancourt, who didn't even slide, at the plate. Ouch, the Royals still trailed, 5-4.
Hillman noted that Betancourt apologized to third-base Dave Owen for rounding the bag too far.
"His turn was so wide he was almost slapping high-fives with their dugout, so he might not have been safe but he'd have certainly been closer had he not taken such a wide turn," Hillman said.
Bobby Seay, who had relieved Tigers starter Rick Porcello after Betancourt's single, grazed Mitch Maier with a pitch and was replaced by Ryan Perry. The Royals caught a huge break when Billy Butler's foul fly, which looked like the third out, was missed by right fielder Clete Thomas. Oddly enough, Thomas had just entered the game as a defensive replacement. No error was charged but the ball looked catchable.
"I couldn't tell. I knew I hit it pretty good but I couldn't tell if it was going to stay in or out. If he made the play, it was going to be tough," Butler said.
Thomas said the ball "nicked" his glove as he edged toward the wall outside the foul line.
"I kind of glanced at the wall a little too late to see where I was instead of looking up sooner," Thomas said.
Then Butler took advantage of his second chance, drilling a single to right field to score DeJesus with the tying run.
"That was huge," Mike Jacobs said. "Billy's been Billy all year except for the first two weeks when he couldn't buy a hit. But since then he's been unbelievable and he's been one of our horses all year."
Jacobs followed with his own opposite-field single to left and the Royals went ahead, 6-5.
Although Alberto Callaspo walked to fill the bases, reliever Fu-te Ni retired Mark Teahen on a liner that Raburn ran down in left field. But the Royals got a cushion by adding an eighth-inning run as Betancourt, sliding this time, scored on a DeJesus sacrifice fly.
The Royals were down, 5-2, after starting pitcher Bruce Chen was chased in the fifth inning. He gave up a two-out, two-run single that Aubrey Huff lifted over the infield. That was the end for Chen.
"He had a real good chance with the bases loaded and Huff up," Hillman said. "It wasn't a good 0-2 pitch. Most definitely the right pitch, but the pitch ended up right on the center of the plate and up and he still hit it right off the end and broke his bat and they plated two runs on it."
The Royals got within 5-4 in the fifth against the rookie Porcello as Josh Anderson and Maier each doubled and Butler hit a sacrifice fly.
The victory went to Yasuhiko Yabuta, who relieved Chen and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings on a rare night in which the Royals' bullpen was perfect. Roman Colon followed with a 1-2-3 eighth. Then Joakim Soria survived two ninth-inning singles to get his 23rd save.
Soria also got the save against the Angels on Monday and, on both occasions, he got all three outs on strikeouts.
"I never look for a strikeout, the fewer pitches I make is better for me if I'm going to be good the next day," Soria said.
So he's thrown 31 pitches in the past two games, which might make him iffy for Wednesday night's game.
But the Royals have now won two straight games against division leaders and snipped the hot Tigers' six-game streak.
"They've got a lot of pressure on them, all first-place clubs do," Hillman said. "We don't specifically have any pressure on us, but we still have the responsibility to do it the right way."
They certainly did that in Tuesday night's comeback victory.
"It feels good, I'm really proud of these guys," Hillman said. "I hope it's a confidence builder."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.