Butler sparks rally with legs, Royals end skid

David Smale, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sometimes heroes come in surprise packages.
Billy Butler, the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Kansas City designated hitter usually provides pop with his bat for the Royals. But on Sunday, Butler provided the spark with his legs as the Royals snapped a seven-game losing streak by defeating the Washington Nationals 6-4 at Kauffman Stadium.
Butler legged out a two-out infield hit to keep the eighth inning alive. He eventually reached third on a fielder's choice as the go-ahead run scored and then made it all the way home to provide the Royals with an insurance run.
"I can definitely say it's on one hand, if at all," Butler said when asked how many games he had won with his speed. "All you can do is put the ball in play and dig. (On the play at third) I saw it hit the ground before my second step. I knew his only play might be at third, so I was digging."
The Royals haven't been in a position to be choosy on how they score their runs, as they had lost 10 of 12 games since reaching a season-best eight games over .500 on Aug. 12. After salvaging the final game against the Nationals, the Royals are above the break-even mark once again.
The Royals got the two runs on two hits -- with only one leaving the infield -- in the winning rally. With two outs, Eric Hosmer walked, followed by Butler's ground ball that kicked off the glove of first baseman Adam LaRoche. Pitcher Craig Stammen didn't cover and Butler was awarded a hit.
"(We) kept battling," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "We caught a break on Salvy's (Salvadore Perez) ball so we could score the run we needed. Then David Lough had a big base hit. We earned it."
The players don't seem too bothered by how the runs scored.
"It's two runs, we'll take it," said first baseman Hosmer. "There are plenty of balls that guys are hitting hard right at people. You'll take them however you can get them."
The mood in the other clubhouse was as down as it was euphoric in the Royals' clubhouse.
"Well, first it's not a hit," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "It's tough because we battled so hard to come back against a tough pitcher. (LaRoche) bobbled the ball and then still had time to walk to first. We should have got him out. With a ball hit right at him, you can usually go to first."
Following Butler's hit, Mike Moustakas walked to load the bases. Perez scorched a hard grounder to short, but the attempt to nail Butler at third was too late, and the Royals took the lead. Lough followed with a sharp single to right scoring Butler, but Moustakas was out at home trying to score from second.
Kelvin Herrera (5-6) pitched a scoreless eighth to pick up the win. Greg Holland pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 37 attempts. He gave up two hits, but struck out the side. His 28th straight converted save is the longest active streak in the American League.
Craig Stammen (7-6) took the loss.
"It's a tough way to lose a ballgame," Johnson said. "After the first inning we pitched brilliantly and came back to tie it. I thought the way we battled back against a tough pitcher was great."
The Royals jumped on Washington starter Dan Haren quickly. Alex Gordon launched a 1-1 pitch 411 feet into the fountains in right to lead off the first.
Emilio Bonifacio then walked and scored from first on an infield single. Hosmer hit a sharp single that handcuffed shortstop Ian Desmond. Bonifacio, who was off on the pitch, never stopped running and raced around the bases while Desmond retrieved the ball in very short center.
Hosmer was thrown out attempting to steal second. With two outs, Moustakas singled to right and Perez hit his sixth home run into the Royals bullpen in left.
"At that point I was thinking the game can go one way or another," Haren said. "After the four runs in the first I was determined to keep it right there. It was a fight to the end. We wanted it and the Royals wanted it, too. We showed a lot of heart to come back."
The Royals survived a scare in the third when Ervin Santana took a line drive off his right hip. But Santana retired the next two hitters to keep the Nationals off the scoreboard.
The Nationals scored in the fourth on Desmond's second home run in as many nights. He caromed one off the facade of the Royals' Hall of Fame beyond the left-field bullpen, 431 feet from home. But unlike the previous two games, that's all the Nationals got. Washington had scored seven and four runs in the fourth in the previous two games.
The Nationals tied the game in the seventh. Denard Span hit a two-out solo home run to cut the lead to 4-2. Span was 4-for-5 on the day. Ryan Zimmerman then laced a single to left, followed by a two-run home run Bryce Harper to left.
NOTES: OF Jayson Werth returned to the Nationals' lineup after missing Saturday's game with an infection between his fourth and fifth toes on his right foot. He was the Nationals' designated hitter. ... RHP Luke Hochevar was placed on the paternity list for the Royals. He pitched three innings Saturday out of the bullpen. ... Sunday's game marked the final interleague game for both teams. Kansas City secured its fifth straight losing interleague campaign with Saturday's loss. The Nationals assured themselves of their third straight winning record against the American League.

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