Butler's two homers can't save Tejeda
Right-hander has first rough outing since joining rotation
KANSAS CITY -- Billy Butler went 4-for-5, whacked two home runs and had four RBIs, but it wasn't enough for the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Twins defeated the Royals, 9-4, gaining ground in their quest to overtake Detroit in the American League Central. By winning for the 10th time in 11 games, the Twins sliced the Tigers' lead to two games.
The Royals don't have the glamour of a race, but Butler has given Kansas City a lot to savor -- 21 home runs, 49 doubles, 91 RBIs, a .306 average, a .503 slugging percentage and a .364 on-base percentage. All of those numbers, except homers (Miguel Olivo has 23), lead the team.
Butler was asked if he paid any special attention to the numbers.
"Only when you keep saying them," Butler said. "No, I'm just trying to square the ball up and help the team win. I just got pitches to [work with] tonight -- even on my last at-bat, I had pitches to get the job done before I struck out."
Butler looked at strike three to end the game, his only mistake of the night.
Other than Butler's performance, most things went awry for the Royals as they lost their third consecutive game after winning 12 of 15.
Kansas City leads the Majors in wild pitches and, folks, its 88th of the year was a real doozy. In the third inning, Nick Punto had just stolen second base when starter Robinson Tejeda's pitch hit the dirt well in front of home plate, skipped past catcher John Buck and glanced off the right leg of umpire Laz Diaz.
"It stayed down and I heard it hit Laz, the umpire, and I guess it went up. I just couldn't find it, and I turned around to Tejeda and he was pointing, and I looked back and there was nothing there," Buck said. "The first time I saw it, it was sitting on the ledge."
Sure enough, in a highlight-reel moment, the ball jumped up and then settled not on the grass but up on the ledge of the backstop in front of the Crown Club seats. By the time Buck located the ball and got off a hurried throw to Tejeda, Punto was sliding home all the way from second base.
"We were yelling from the dugout. It's tough to hear," said Royals manager Trey Hillman. "It's a panic situation for a catcher, you don't know where it went. You look back there and it's not on the ground. That's one of the few times you see it sitting up there on the shelf. I don't think I've ever seen it."
Butler matched that run with one swing -- he connected on Carl Pavano's first pitch to him in the third inning. Butler's 20th homer got just over the right-center wall, 403 feet away.
"I knew I hit it really good, but I didn't know if I hit it high enough or far enough -- it was mainly a line drive," Butler said. "When I hit it, I thought it was a double."
Tejeda then reached the end of an obscure but very nice stretch of pitching. Starting on Aug. 31, the hard-throwing right-hander had held right-handed batters to a combined 0-for-43 -- the longest such streak in the Majors this year. Then, ouch, the Twins' Michael Cuddyer spoiled things.
Cuddyer belted a drive over the left-field wall for his 30th home run. The fourth-inning blast not only ended Tejeda's streak, it was the Twins' first hit of the game.
The walk on the wild side continued for Tejeda in the fifth inning. He mixed in four walks with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's error and Orlando Cabrera's RBI single. This is Tejeda's point of vulnerability -- when he starts missing the plate, look out.
Tejeda came into this game after giving up just two runs in 22 1/3 innings of four starts -- in which he was 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA.
"I wasn't even close to what I've been before, so it was like a crazy night the way it looked," Tejeda said. "But that's baseball."
When Tejada was finished, he'd walked a career-high seven and given up six runs but just two hits.
Neither Hillman nor pitching coach Bob McClure could figure out the reason for Tejeda's lapse.
"I really couldn't put my finger on anything, Mac couldn't either," Hillman said.
One reason that was ruled out was a finger -- Tejeda's right forefinger, which had been plagued by a blister in previous games. It was no factor this time, he said.
After Tejeda had walked in two runs, he was relieved by Juan Cruz, who promptly issued a walk to force in the fourth run of the inning. Cruz then retired the next two batters to calm the restless crowd of 22,307. But the Twins were ahead, 6-1.
Hold on, though. Butler wasn't finished hitting home runs. Josh Anderson doubled, Mitch Maier walked and Butler sent a soaring drive past the left-field foul pole for a three-run homer, also off Pavano.
"He left it a little bit up and not quite as far in as he wanted to go. I didn't miss it, and it was just a good pitch to drive," Butler said.
That got the Royals in striking range at 6-4, but the Twins, no doubt seeing the scoreboard showing Detroit losing 2-0 at Chicago, kept adding on. Delmon Young socked an RBI triple in the seventh against Roman Colon and scored on Matt Tolbert's single. Then, in the ninth, Young belted a solo homer off Victor Marte.
That was more than enough to counteract Butler's attack.
Hillman, asked about Butler's array of numbers, said it was the .306 batting average that stuck out for him.
"I think everybody knew there was power in there. It was just untapped," Hillman said. "When you throw that kind of average in there with those slugging numbers, it's pretty impressive. ... He just continues to get better and better."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.