Butler and Gordon look to continue their hot play as the Royals attempt to take a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Sunday.
Butler has put together a seven-game hitting streak, during which he’s batted .444 (12 for 27) with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs and seven runs. The designated hitter’s strong start came after he hit a career-best .318 with 15 homers and a team-leading 78 RBIs last year.
His production shouldn’t come as a surprise for the Royals (5-3), but Gordon’s .378 average may be proof that he’s living up to the lofty expectations after Kansas City drafted him second overall in 2005.
The left fielder hit .244 over his previous four seasons, but was outstanding during spring training by posting a .459 average with six homers and 23 RBIs.
“Honestly, I think I’m looser, I don’t think I’m trying to crush the ball every time, I think I’m ready to hit the ball every time instead of getting caught in-between sometimes,” Gordon told the team’s official website. “That’s mainly what I think the difference is.”
Manager Ned Yost sees a different change and is showing confidence in Gordon by batting him third while dropping Butler to cleanup.
“His swing’s flatter which allows him more time through the strike zone,” Yost said. “His bat’s in the strike zone longer and he produces more offense.”
Gordon and Butler have combined for seven of the Royals 16 hits in this series. They had three of Kansas City’s five in a 3-1 victory Saturday after falling in the series opener on Friday.
Butler has a .344 career average against Detroit (3-5), collecting at least one hit in 21 consecutive meetings while compiling a .388 average.
Luke Hochevar(notes) (0-1, 6.17 ERA), who gets the start in the finale, may not mind seeing him continue that streak as he tries to show improvement after struggling through his first two appearances, serving up three homers while hitting two batters in 11 2-3 innings.
The right-hander allowed six runs - five earned - with seven hits and two walks in six innings of a 7-6, 12-inning win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.
Hochevar is 1-1 with an 8.03 ERA while giving up four homers in three games, including two starts, in Detroit.
The Tigers have alternated wins and losses over the last six games, hitting .333 with six home runs and 22 runs in those victories compared to .204 with two homers and seven runs in the defeats.
He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Saturday, but is 9 for 17 against Hochevar.
Rick Porcello(notes) is trying to rebound from a difficult season debut, as he surrendered five runs and nine hits in five innings of a 5-1 loss at Baltimore. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 4.34 ERA over his last six starts against the Royals.