Royals

Drew Butera’s triple — triple! — keys Royals’ victory over Red Sox

Ned Yost: 'We felt pretty good about our chances'

After Whit Merrifield drove in pinch runner Ramon Torres in the seventh and Lorenzo Cain gave the Royals some insurance, manager Ned Yost was confident in his bullpen's ability to maintain a 4-2 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the Royals' return t
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After Whit Merrifield drove in pinch runner Ramon Torres in the seventh and Lorenzo Cain gave the Royals some insurance, manager Ned Yost was confident in his bullpen's ability to maintain a 4-2 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the Royals' return t

Whit Merrifield fist-pumped the Royals’ dugout in delight. Red Sox reliever Blaine Boyer clenched his fist in anger.

The key battle in the Royals-Red Sox series opener went to Merrifield, who bounced a single through a drawn-in left side of the infield and paved the way to a 4-2 Royals’ triumph Monday at Kauffman Stadium.

The game stood 2-2 when the bottom and top of the Royals’ order served up the go-ahead drama.

Catcher Drew Butera, in the lineup as Salvador Perez rested most of the night because of a sore rib, stroked a one-out line drive to center field, where Jackie Bradley Jr. made a diving attempt to catch it.

Bad move. The ball bounced past Bradley and to the wall as Butera chugged into third base with the fifth triple of his eight-year career.

“A few have to fall down for me to hit a triple,” Butera said. “I was just trying to get on base and see if we could get something going. Got the good part of the wood on it.

“I honestly thought he caught it. I put my head down and hit first base, and as I looked up I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ ”

Butera heard first-base coach Rusty Kuntz yell at him to get to third base.

“And I was like, ‘What? All right, cool.’ ”

That brought up Merrifield, who fouled off five pitches. He perfectly placed his high hopping grounder between third baseman Pablo Sandoval and shortstop Xander Bogaerts, bringing in pinch runner Ramon Torres and setting off the dueling fists of emotion.

“Anytime I have a runner on third with less than two outs, I’m trying to drive the ball to center,” Merrifield said. “He really made a good pitch, but I happened to find a hole.”

Can't go to lunch with a ballplayer? We'll bring one to you: Kansas City Royals catcher Drew Butera. We sat down with him at Garozzo’s Italian Ristorante and (in the first of three episodes) talked about Sicilian Butter, Sicilian Artichokes and wh

The Royals weren’t finished scoring.

With Merrifield running, Jorge Bonifacio bounced a slow roller to second base, allowing Merrifield to take second and score when Lorenzo Cain dropped a single to right.

And the Royals had taken the opener of a series between two of baseball’s hottest teams.

Winners of seven of their last nine games, the Royals have closed within striking distance of the Central Division lead. By winning seven of 10, the Red Sox have chased down the slumping Yankees in the East. Monday was about maintaining momentum.

The Royals improved to 34-35 and remain 3  1/2 games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians, who also won on Monday. They’ve won eight of nine and stand 12-5 in June.

The Royals gave starter Jason Hammel a lead in the third inning when Eric Hosmer crushed a two-run homer to center and the base of the scoreboard. Merrifield opened the inning with an infield single and Cain looked like he might have gotten one out of Kauffman. But the ball ran out of steam on the warning track.

Hosmer, struck out in his first plate appearance on a checked swing, didn’t miss a full-count offering from Hector Velazquez, making his second major-league start and third appearance. The distance was estimated at 446 feet and was Hosmer’s eighth home run this season. It also marked career RBIs 501 and 502.

The Royals’ lead was short-lived. Hammel opened the fourth by surrendering a bloop single to Hanley Ramirez on a ball that just eluded right fielder Bonifacio. Bradley then took Hammel over the right-field bullpen to make it 2-2.

But for the game, Hammel was solid and continued to turn the corner on his season. He entered the game with a 2-0 record, 2.21 ERA and .218 opponents’ batting average in his previous three starts.

On Monday, he surrendered seven hits in seven innings, and although he hit two batters, he didn’t issue a walk for the third time in four games.

Since May 29, Hammel has lowered his ERA from 6.18 to 4.83, while improving to 4-6.

The bullpen finished it off, but not without some tense moments.

Reliever Mike Minor loaded the bases in the eighth on pair of singles and a two-out walk. Christian Vazquez topped a slow roller to third, where Cheslor Cuthbert charged and fired just in time to record the out. Closer Kelvin Herrera worked around a one-out triple in the ninth to collect his 16th save.

The Royals also came up empty on some scoring chances, including one in the sixth that included a Mike Moustakas bunt single against the shift.

That turned out to be only the second most unlikely Royals base hit of the game, topped by Butera’s triple.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

Royals 4, Red Sox 2

Boston

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Betts rf

5

0

0

0

0

0

.274

Benintendi lf

5

0

2

0

0

1

.274

Bogaerts ss

5

0

2

0

0

1

.319

Moreland 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.270

Ramirez dh

4

1

2

0

0

0

.245

Bradley Jr. cf

4

1

3

2

0

0

.261

Rutledge 2b

3

0

0

0

0

2

.232

Sandoval 3b

3

0

1

0

0

0

.212

a-Young ph

0

0

0

0

1

0

.262

Leon c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.225

Vazquez c-3b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.295

Totals

37

2

10

2

1

5

 

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Merrifield 2b-rf

4

1

2

1

0

1

.292

Bonifacio rf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.250

Perez c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.286

Cain cf

4

0

2

1

0

0

.287

Hosmer 1b

2

1

1

2

2

1

.308

Moustakas dh

4

0

1

0

0

0

.276

Cuthbert 3b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.205

Escobar ss

4

0

1

0

0

0

.197

Gordon lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.191

Butera c

3

0

1

0

0

0

.242

1-Torres pr-2b

1

1

0

0

0

0

.357

Totals

34

4

10

4

2

4

 

Boston

000

200

000

2

10

0

Royals

002

000

20x

4

10

0

a-walked for Sandoval in the 8th. 1-ran for Butera in the 7th.

LOB: Boston 11, Kansas City 8. 3B: Benintendi (1), Butera (1). HR: Bradley Jr. (9), off Hammel; Hosmer (8), off Velazquez. RBIs: Bradley Jr. 2 (31), Merrifield (25), Cain (27), Hosmer 2 (30). SB: Escobar (2).

Runners left in scoring position: Boston 5 (Moreland, Sandoval, Vazquez 3); Kansas City 4 (Moustakas 2, Escobar, Torres). RISP: Boston 0 for 7; Kansas City 2 for 9. Runners moved up: Bonifacio.

Boston

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Velazquez

5.1

5

2

2

0

3

77

5.27

Abad

0

1

0

0

1

0

7

2.66

Boyer L, 0-1

1.1

3

2

2

0

0

34

3.55

Scott

0.1

0

0

0

1

0

9

1.56

Maddox

1

1

0

0

0

1

15

0.00

Royals

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Hammel W, 4-6

7

7

2

2

0

4

91

4.83

Minor

1

2

0

0

1

1

23

2.06

Herrera S, 16

1

1

0

0

0

0

8

4.66

Abad pitched to 2 batters in the 6th.

Hold: Minor (8). Inherited runners-scored: Boyer 2-0, Scott 1-0. HBP: Hammel 2 (Rutledge, Moreland). WP: Scott.

Umpires: Home, Eric Cooper; First, Gary Cederstrom; Second, Gabe Morales; Third, Adrian Johnson. Time: 3:11. Att: 27,992.

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