He had been booed, benched and effectively brushed aside from the daily doings of the Royals. But when Billy Butler dug his spikes into the batter’s box on Monday evening, in the eighth inning of a taut affair with the White Sox, an opportunity arose to erase all of that ill will and agitation.
The moment found him. It so often does in this game, one blessed by serendipity and daily roles of the dice. After sitting out most of this month, Butler came to bat with two outs and two on. The tying run stood 90 feet away. All Butler needed to do was complete an act he once made look so easy, even though it never was, and punish a baseball with the barrel of his bat.
The outcome would be decided an inning later, thanks to speed of Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore. But in the frame beforehand, Butler possessed a chance to play the hero.
During this trying summer, the most difficult of Butler’s professional career, advance scouts developed a simple but devastating method to attack Butler. They advised their pitchers to blitz him with sinkers inside and offspeed pitches away. Chicago reliever Jake Petricka only needed to follow the first half of the script.
The at-bat required one pitch. Petricka fired a 92-mph fastball on the inner half. Butler smacked the ball right at the opposing shortstop. All across Kauffman Stadium, shoulders sank and heads hung. The opportunity was for naught.
In his return to the lineup on Monday, just his second start in a week, Butler showed few signs of a revival. He went 0-for-3 with a walk. He saw only 10 pitches, the fewest of any player in the Royals starting lineup, save for backup infielder Jayson Nix.
When will Butler play again? It could be Tuesday. It could be a long while. Nori Aoki had been working as the designated hitter the previous two days, and he tied a career-high with four hits on Monday. He’ll certainly be in the lineup against right-hander Chris Bassit on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Royals duel with southpaw ace Chris Sale. Manager Ned Yost indicated his hope was Josh Willingham (groin strain) would be ready to start by then. Would Willingham join Butler in the lineup? Hard to say.
But Butler received an opportunity to erase so much of this season’s frustration on Monday. He came up empty. He did not stop by the clubhouse afterward to speak with reporters.
FROM THE STAR
Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson raced away with a win for the Royals, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
“You know this is how it would happen in the movie, too, right?” writes Sam Mellinger.
The Royals will skip Danny Duffy on Tuesday, Blair Kerkhoff writes. Liam Hendriks will start.
THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)
THE STANDINGS IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
KC trails Detroit by 1.5 games.
THE STANDINGS IN THE WILD CARD RACE
KC leads Seattle by two games.
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“Even Hell Has Its Heroes” by Earth.