Bam Bam Butler piling up big numbers for Royals

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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.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.