ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, sure, an 11-4 victory Monday night over the Los Angeles Angels doesn’t entirely wipe out that miserable week the Royals just endured, but it should calm a few concerns.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Most encouraging, perhaps, was the 19-hit attack, which matched a season high and included five from previously slumping Billy Butler, three singles and two doubles. Butler also had five RBIs.
“I knew I had been getting closer, said Butler, who raised his average from .228 to .261. “I had been doing a lot of early work on the field, and I’m doing early work (Tuesday) because it’s just one game.
“Right now, I think the more swings I take before the game, the better I feel in the game. Right now, I feel I need to get my rhythm down. It worked today, so I’m going to do it again.”
Perhaps there should be a line for that extra work before Tuesday’s game, although there was much to like in Monday’s victory. Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Salvy Perez each added three hits.
The explosion made it easy for Luis Mendoza, who gained his first victory of the season by holding the Angels to three runs in six innings while starting on normal rest this season for only the second time.
“I’ve been saying that (with regular work),” he said, “every start I’m going to be better and better. Today, I felt great. My sinker was working well down in the zone, and my teammates backed me up with some runs.”
The rout came after a 1-6 week, which concluded with three home losses to the New York Yankees, and at the start of a three-city, nine-game trip that continues Oakland before ending in Houston.
“We needed to get a win,” manager Ned Yost said. “It was one week. We knew the offense would click sooner or later, and it did tonight. Billy had been struggling, but it was just a matter of time before he got back on track.
“We made it easy for Mendy, but Mendy was pretty darn good tonight. When he missed, he missed down. He had a good sinker. Good action. He had a good curveball that he kept down in the zone.”
Mendoza, 1-2, struck out six and walked none before handing an eight-run lead to Luke Hochevar to start the seventh inning. Hochevar worked the final three innings for his first career save.
“I had no idea it was a save,” Hochevar said. “I thought saves had to be three runs (ahead) or less.”
Saves are also credited when a reliever works three or more innings in closing out a victory. Hochevar had not worked more than two innings in any of his nine previous appearances.
“If any night I was going to go three,” he said, “tonight was the night. Even warming up in the bullpen, I almost felt too good. Too strong. I felt after the first inning, my command got better and better.”
The Royals beat up on Angels starter Joe Blanton, 0-7, for seven runs and 12 hits in 4 ⅔ innings. They scored one run in the first, two in the second, answered an LA run with one in the fourth and stuck for three in the fifth.
A three-run sixth against Michael Roth pushed the lead to 10-1 before the Angels struck back for two in their sixth.
Butler benefited on his two doubles from curious routes by Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton but, perhaps, was due for a little luck. Butler’s batting average on balls in play was far belong league norms prior to the game.
“Billy is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” Yost said. “I mean, he can hit… . Any day, he’s capable of breaking out and really carrying the team for a period of time.”
The five hits matched Butler’s career high and marked the 14th time that he’s had four or more in a game. It was his fifth game with at least five RBIs; he set a career best earlier this year with seven at Philadelphia.
The Royals, 19-16, broke on top with a run in the first. Alex Gordon pulled a two-out single through the right side and came around when Butler drove a double over Hamilton’s head.
Butler’s drive was high enough that Hamilton seemed to have sufficient time to retreat to the wall for a catch, but he appeared to have trouble tracking it. Gordon scored easily.
Jarrod Dyson started a two-run third by drag-bunting for a one-out single before stealing second. Escobar followed with a single off Blanton’s leg that moved Dyson to third.
Blanton had a chance to escape when he struck out Gordon, but Escobar stole second before Butler pumped a full-count pitch into center for a two-run single and a 3-0 lead.
Mendoza retired the first six Angels before ex-Royal Alberto Callaspo opened the third with a double past first. Callaspo went to third on Brendan Harris’ fly to deep right and scored on Chris Iannetta’s single to center.
The Royals answered in their fourth after putting runners at first and second with one out on singles by Cain and Perez.
Again, Blanton put himself in position to escape unharmed by retiring Chris Getz on a routine fly to center, but Dyson yanked an RBI double into the right-center gap that restored the three-run lead.
The Royals struck again in the fifth after Butler punched a one-out single to left and moved to second on Eric Hosmer’s single through the right side.
Cain pulled a single through the left side and, when J.B. Shuck was slow to the ball, Butler rounded third on all 18 wheels and rumbled home for a 5-1 lead. Cain took second on the throw.
The Angels shortened their infield with one out, but Moustakas couldn’t take advantage. He hit a weak grounder to second that forced both runners to hold.
Perez picked up Moustakas with a two-run double into the left-center gap for a 7-1 lead, which finished Blanton.
The Royals tacked on three more in the sixth against Roth, who gave up one-out singles to Escobar and Gordon before Butler sent another drive to deep right that Hamilton appeared to misplay.
The result was a two-run double. Butler moved to third on Hosmer’s grounder to second and scored on Cain’s single to left. That made it 10-1.