KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the first and quite possibly the only time in his career, the Kansas City Royals have parlayed Billy Butler’s plodding foot speed into a win.
At 6-1 and 250 pounds, the burly DH does not run so much as he chugs.
But with the score tied with two out in the eighth on Sunday, Butler hustled to first base to keep the inning alive.
Then he hurried with all his might a few minutes later and was safe at third, allowing Eric Hosmer to cross the plate with the tiebreaking run in what turned into a 6-4 victory over Washington that ended KC’s seven-game losing streak.
“All you can do is put the ball in play and dig. And that’s what I did,” Butler said with a grin.
With two out and Hosmer on first and the game tied 4-all, Butler hit a hard grounder that first baseman Adam LaRoche knocked down.
The ball rolled several feet to his right and when pitcher Craig Stammen was late to cover the bag, the slow-running Butler pulled into first with an infield single.
“The pitcher’s supposed to get over there,” Butler said. “They had to know I don’t run very well. But all I could do was run, and I beat him after he didn’t get off to a good start at first.”
Stammen then walked Mike Moustakas on fourth pitches and Salvador Perez hit a hard grounder to shortstop Ian Desmond.
He bobbled the ball momentarily and his throw to third was late, allowing Hosmer to cross the plate on an infield single and making it possible for Royals manager Ned Yost to take a deep breath.
“It seems like when you’re going through those (losing) streaks, every decision you make doesn’t work,” Yost said.
“Do I pinch run? (for Butler) Do I not pinch run? My heart kind of sunk there for a minute thinking as soon as it was hit and I see him going to third. But he ends up making it.”
David Lough’s RBI single brought in the sixth run as the Nationals saw the end of a five-game road winning streak.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson thought Butler should have been out at first, sending the teams into the ninth tied 4-4.
“(LaRoche) bobbled the ball and then still had time to walk to first,” Johnson said. “We should have got him out. With a ball hit right at him you can usually go to first.”
Kelvin Herrera (5-6) pitched 1 1-3 innings of relief for only the Royals’ third victory in 13 games. Stammen (7-6) took the loss and was part of a shaky defense.
Greg Holland pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 37 opportunities, giving up two singles but striking out the side. Stammen went one inning, gave up three hits and two earned runs.