Poor Billy Butler. His Kansas City Royals were down a run in the ninth inning Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Butler singled to right field, which might have been the start of a rally — but then he was thrown out. At first base. By the right fielder.
Butler was plenty out, but it would have been nice if Royals manager Ned Yost pretended like it was close enough to challenge. He could have at least done that slow walk onto the field that managers do now in the video replay era when they're trying to figure out whether to challenge. You know, just to make Butler feel better. He's already having a rough go of it in 2014, hitting .235 with just one homer this season.
Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista deserves a lot of credit here too. That was both a wonderful throw and a head's up play that, in the moment at least, helped his team. Given the situation — there was one out in the ninth as the Jays clung to that one-run lead — it was a huge moment.
It was also big because we don't see a 9-3 putout all that often, and when we do, it's usually a pitcher getting mowed down. Dan Haren got thrown out at first earlier this year. It didn't happen at all in 2013. Of the last five instances, only once was it a position player (Michael Taylor, thrown out by Jeff Francoeur in 2010). According to the wonderful research of Baseball Prospectus, it's happened 29 times since 1990 if you count Butler.
In this case, the excitement in the Rogers Centre quickly turned into despair. The Royals got their game-tying run another way, and it was as groan-worthy for the Jays as the 9-3 putout was for Butler. Jose Reyes made a short throw on a two-out grounder that Edwin Encarnacion couldn't dig out at first, allowing Jarrod Dyson to score from second.
That eventually sent the game into extra innings, which eventually led to an 8-6 Royals win, which halted the Jays' winning streak at nine games. In hindsight, in the grand scheme of things, Butler getting lasered at first didn't mean too much.
We have to wonder how much solace that'll bring him, though.
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