Billy Butler owns a deceptive postseason battling line.
Officially he went zero for one on Tuesday, dropping his playoff batting average to .217. There have been four singles and a double.
But Butler has risen to the occasion more than once against the Orioles in the American League Championship Series, and no swing was bigger than his in the sixth inning of the Royals’ 2-1 victory.
The uprising started with singles by Nori Aoki and Eric Hosmer, putting runners on the corners with one out. Jarrod Dyson was on third, running for Aoki.
Never miss a local story.
Up stepped Butler. Orioles manager Buck Showalter made a pitching change, removing starter Wie-Yin Chen, who had served up a walk and a deep fly out to Butler, and brought in hard throwing right-hander Kevin Gausman.
Butler, who has grounded into two of the Royals’ three double plays in the playoffs, was a candidate here.
Instead, Butler got under a Gausman fast ball and sent to left field, deep enough to easily plate Dyson, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead.
“I was just trying to get my job done there,” Butler said. “Gausman is trying to come in on me. I was able to get inside of it and get it to the outfield.”
It was Butler’s fifth RBI of the postseason. He delivered an RBI double in game two and a sacrifice fly in game one.
The Royals have increased their power and scoring in the playoffs compared with the regular season, in large measure by showing greater patience and pitch selection. But Tuesday was a grind. Runs were precious, and Butler was in the middle of both scored by the Royals.
“It was a tough battle all night offensively on both sides,” Butler said. “I was happy to get the job done. It doesn’t happen every time. But they put their best arm in there for the situation, and I was able make something happen.”
Butler took a strike, then got a 98 mph fast ball that he handled.
“The best case scenario is to get a hit. I didn’t do that but I was able to drive the ball. I knew off the bat I got it good and got the run in.”
Despite a regular season and postseason in which he never regained a stroke that powered 29 home runs two years ago, Butler remains a threat.
His walk in the fourth inning was a crucial plate appearance. The Royals trailed 1-0 when Cain and Hosmer singled with one out. It was the first time Tuesday that the Royals had a runner reach second.
Butler stepped up and Chen threw to him carefully, walking him on five pitches. Alex Gordon, who had struck out in his previous five at-bats, including his first one on Tuesday, dribbled a grounder to second that scored Cain.
Throughout the second half of the season and into the playoffs, speculation about Butler’s future with the Royals has persisted. The Royals have an option on Butler for $12.5 million for 2015.
Whatever happens, he’s making the most of this postseason and is one victory away from a World Series.
“It’s not over yet,” Butler said. “We’re taking it a pitch at a time. That’s why we are where we are. That’s why this group is special.”