Billy Butler didn’t knock off a season’s worth of frustration with one swing, but Friday’s two-run homer in the eighth-inning to break a tie and send the Royals to a 6-4 victory over the Indians made an entire clubhouse smile. Manager Ned Yost, who had benched Butler for the second time in three games, saw some hard work finally pay off. “Everybody knows Billy’s been struggling, so this has to be a big boost for his confidence, to come off the bench and win a game like that,” Yost said. Fellow veterans like Raul Ibanez have seen enough of Butler over the years to know his capabilities. “He’s a great hitter, and he came up big,” Ibanez said. “It’s a great sign.” And Butler himself, slogging through the worst of his seven full major-league seasons, battling his swing, his approach and unable to fully understand how, in what should be a big year, he’s hitting 30 points below his career average with a measly three home runs on the year entering Friday. “The production hasn’t been there,” Butler said. “Over my career it’s there, but this game is about what have you done for me lately.” In this case, the answer is punctuated with an exclamation point. The Royals had lost a three-run lead and were tied 4-4 when Butler was summoned by Yost to pinch-hit for Ibanez and face left-hander Nick Hagadone with one out in the eighth. Indians manager Terry Francona countered with righty John Axford. As Axford warmed up, Butler chatted with hitting coach Dale Sveum about Axford’s tendencies. Whatever was learned, Butler put to immediate use, turning on a 1-0 pitch and hitting the ball so squarely that he didn’t feel the contact. But Butler knew it was gone. After the swing, he watched it fly for a few steps before engaging the home run trot.
Billy Butler’s pinch-hit blast lifts Royals past Indians
Kansas City Star | Jul 26