PHILADELPHIA — Sooner or later, you knew it was coming. Country Breakfast was going to eat — and eat big after a near-starvation diet at the plate over the season’s opening week.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The extra helpings came Sunday afternoon when Billy Butler matched a franchise record by driving in seven runs while leading the Royals to a harrowing 9-8 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
“I don’t feel I was seeing the ball real well (in previous games),” said Butler, who entered the game at two for 15 with one RBI in five previous games.
“I’ve been working on some adjustments. I wasn’t picking up on breaking pitches too well. I feel I was able to slow it down a little bit and saw the ball a little bit better.”
Butler’s big day included the first grand slam of his career, although his home run trot came in two 180-foot intervals. It required an umpires’ review for confirmation in the fifth inning.
“I saw it bounce back (after hitting a railing),” he said. “It’s tough to see with that railing. I didn’t know when it came back on the field. I was standing on second until I heard otherwise.
“I was happy just to get the lead for us. A grand slam was a bonus.”
The slam gave the Royals a 6-4 lead. Butler collected his first RBI on a ground out in a two-run third inning that started the Royals on their comeback from an early 4-0 deficit.
Butler added a two-run single in the sixth, but his chance at the RBI record ended when he walked while leading off the ninth inning. He settled for the 12th seven-RBI game in franchise history.
The last player to do it was José Guillen on June 7, 2008 in New York. Bo Jackson is the only player to do it twice.
“You knew it was just a matter of time with Billy,” manager Ned Yost said. “You knew it was just a matter of time before he broke out and did some damage.”
Yost said the “roles are still the same” in his bullpen rotation despite watching closer Greg Holland fail to close out a victory for the second straight day.
Holland allowed three runs in the ninth inning Saturday in a 4-3 loss and failed to bail out an ineffective J.C. Gutierrez in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. Holland retired the first hitter before yielding two singles.
Yost called on Kelvin Herrera at that point with two on and two outs with the Royals leading 9-7 to face pinch-hitter Laynce Nix.
“I really liked the match-up of Herrera on Nix because of the change-up,” Yost said. “That’s why we made that move.”
Herrera jumped ahead 0-2 before yielding an RBI single. Herrera then threw a wild pitch before stranding the tying and winning runs by striking out Erik Kratz.
Holland started Saturday’s game by walking three straight hitters. He then recorded two strikeouts before giving up a three-run, walk-off double to pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen.
“We’re not going to lose (many) games like that,” Yost said prior to Sunday’s game, “without making an adjustment. But we’re not near that point yet.
“You don’t like losing games like that. And every time you do, everybody wants to pop the closer question. I can’t get involved in that.”
Holland believes he was better in Sunday’s appearance despite the results.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “I executed pitches today. Ned thought the matchup with Nix was better with (Herrera). He went that way, and we won the game. That’s all there is to it.”
Holland became the club’s closer last season following the July 31 trade that sent Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati. Holland closed the season by going 3-1 with 16 saves in 18 chances with a 1.98 ERA in 26 appearances.
The Royals produced their sixth straight errorless game in Sunday’s victory — a run that sets a franchise record to start a season. The streak also covers 201 chances.
The 2008 Royals had just one error in their first 10 games, but it came in the seventh inning of the fifth game on a two-out throwing error by reliever Ron Mahay on a bunt by Minnesota’s Ray Tolbert.
The Royals’ home opener Monday against Minnesota marks the start of the 40th anniversary season at Kauffman Stadium. The club is planning a year-long celebration to mark the milestone.
Only five current stadiums are older than The K: Fenway Park (Boston, 1912); Wrigley Field (Chicago, 1914); Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, 1962), Angel Stadium (Anaheim, 1966) and the Oakland Coliseum (Oakland, 1966).
Club officials remain mum on who will throw out the ceremonial pitch to kick off the anniversary prior to the 3:10 p.m. game, but they face a high bar:
Bo Jackson did the honors last Monday for the season opener against the White Sox in Chicago; and George Brett and Mike Schmidt shared the duty Friday for the Phillies’ home opener.
The Royals opened then-Royals Stadium on April 10, 1973 with 12-1 victory over Texas behind the late Paul Splittorff, who pitched a complete game in front of 39,464.
The Royals’ all-time record at Kauffman Stadium (it was renamed on July 2, 1993) is 1,648-1,521-1.
It was 44 years ago Monday — April 8, 1969 — that the Royals played the first game in franchise history. And they made it a memorable one in a 4-3 victory over Minnesota in 12 innings at Municipal Stadium.
Joe Foy started the winning rally with a one-out single against Twins reliever Joe Grzenda. (Foy would make a greater contribution to the franchise on Dec. 3, 1969 when traded to the Mets for outfielder Amos Otis and pitcher Bob Johnson.)
Foy went to second when a pitch got past veteran catcher John Roseboro for a passed ball. That prompted an intentional walk to Chuck Harrison.
A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and led to another intentional walk — this time to Bob Oliver, which loaded the bases.
Twins manager Billy Martin then brought in Dick Woodson to face Ellie Rodriguez, who would be the club’s lone representative to the 1969 All-Star Game. Royals manager Joe Gordon countered by sending up Joe Keough.
Keough yanked a game-winning single to right.
Worth noting: Outfielder Lou Piniella, acquired a week earlier in a trade from Seattle, batted leadoff for the Royals and went four for five. It was the start of a Rookie of the Year campaign.
Also worth noting: Moe Drabowsky got the victory; the crowd was just 17,688; and the third-base umpire was Don Denkinger.
• James Shields’ single in the sixth inning was the first hit by an American League pitcher in April since April 30, 1972. Six AL pitchers had hits that day, including Al Fitzmorris of the Royals.
• Alex Gordon went three for four. It was his second three-hit game of the season, and the 48th of his career. He also scored three (or more) runs for the 12th time in his career.
• Monday is Jeremy Guthrie’s 34th birthday.
• Butler’s grand slam was the first of his career, and the first by a Royal since Mike Moustakas on July 2, 2012 at Toronto against David Pauley. It was the 110th slam in franchise history.
• Shields is 17-5 over his career in April.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.