They’re still headed for 90-plus losses in a disappointing season, but the Royals have quietly climbed out of last place in the AL Central by going 12-7 in September and Billy Butler has solidified his standing as one of baseball’s best young hitters by going 24-for-70 (.343) with 12 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs, and a 12/12 K/BB ratio this month.
Butler destroyed minor-league pitching after the Royals made him the 14th pick in the 2004 draft, batting at least .300 at every level and .336/.416/.561 in 397 games overall. Now he’s beating up big-league pitching at the age of 23, hitting .314/.381/.537 with 10 homers, 22 doubles, and 47 RBIs in 61 games since the All-Star break.
Plenty of young hitters find success in the majors, but what makes “Bam Bam” unique is that he combines a gaudy batting average with lots of power, solid plate discipline, and a low strikeout rate, all of which bode well for his continued growth as an offensive force. With two weeks remaining he’s hitting an even .300 with 68 extra-base hits, 52 walks, and 93 strikeouts in 620 plate appearances spread over 147 games.
If he can maintain a .300 batting average for the next dozen games while smacking two extra-base hits and avoiding more than six strikeouts, Butler would join some pretty exclusive company. Here’s a complete list of all the 23-year-old hitters in baseball history who’ve managed to bat .300 with at least 70 extra-base hits and 50 walks while striking out fewer than 100 times:
Ted Williams Joe DiMaggio Frank Robinson
Hank Aaron Stan Musial Cal Ripken Jr.
Lou Gehrig Albert Pujols Fred Lynn
Willie Mays Mel Ott Harlond Clift
Mickey Mantle Hank Greenberg Hanley Ramirez
Ken Griffey Jr. Duke Snider
Not a bad set of names, huh? Butler trying to become the 18th member of that club and Zack Greinke going for the Cy Young award will at least give Royals fans something to root for down the stretch. General manager Dayton Moore and manager Trey Hillman haven’t inspired a whole lot of confidence in Kansas City, but having the 23-year-old Butler and 25-year-old Greinke as long-term building blocks is a pretty nice start.
The Marlins were somehow able to muster up the strength not only to play Monday night’s game against the Mets, but also win it convincingly one day after losing Jose Fernandez in a tragic boating accident. The Marlins and Mets helped pay tribute to Fernandez prior to the start of the game as outlined here.
When the game started, the Marlins came out of the gate with a bang. Dee Gordon homered in his first at-bat, then the club hung a four-spot in the second inning. They tacked on two more in the third inning to chase starter Bartolo Colon and take a commanding 7-0 lead. The Mets chipped away for two runs in the fifth on an Asdrubal Cabrera two-run homer and tacked on one more in the eighth, but ultimately fell short by a 7-3 margin.
Gordon finished 4-for-5 with the homer and two RBI. Justin Bour went 3-for-3 with a single, double, triple, and a walk along with an RBI and two runs scored.
A.J. Ramos, who closed out the win, placed the ball on the pitcher’s mound for Fernandez. The Marlins huddled around the mound and said a prayer. The players huddled closer to the rubber on the mound, then left their hats behind as they retreated to the clubhouse as fans at Marlins Park chanted, “Jose, Jose, Jose.”
In a post-game interview, Gordon called his first-inning home run “the best moment of my life,” as NBC 6 Sports reports.
The Indians beat the Tigers 7-4 at Comerica Park on Monday night, clinching the AL Central for their first division title since 2007. Starter Corey Kluber lasted only four innings before exiting with right groin tightness, but the Indians were able to overcome the adversity.
Coco Crisp gave the Indians their first two runs with a two-run home run in the second inning off of starter Buck Farmer. The Tigers would promptly tie the game on a two-run homer by J.D. Martinez in the bottom half of the inning.
In the fifth, an RBI double by Jason Kipnis and a sacrifice fly by Mike Napoli put the Tribe back on top 4-2. The Tigers answered once again with a Miguel Cabrera RBI single in the bottom half to make it 4-3.
Roberto Perez homered for the Indians in the top of the top of the seventh, and Cabrera answered with another RBI single in the bottom half to keep it within one run at 5-4.
The Indians tacked on another insurance run in the eighth on three consecutive two-out singles by Crisp, Rajai Davis, and Perez. Carlos Santana then hit what should have been the final out of the eighth inning, but J.D. Martinez botched the catch, allowing the Indians’ seventh run to score.
Cody Allen shut the Tigers down in the bottom of the ninth, protecting the 7-4 lead for his 30th save of the season.
The last time the Indians won the AL Central, their starting lineup featured a 28-year-old Victor Martinez, a 25-year-old Jhonny Peralta, a 24-year-old Grady Sizemore, and a 26-year-old CC Sabathia. It’s been a long time.
The American League playoff picture still isn’t set yet, so the Indians will be intently watching the final week of the season to see who will be their playoff opponent.