The Royals have now won back-to-back games after snapping a seven-game losing streak, and they trail the A's by seven games for the second AL Wild Card spot. Manager Ned Yost feels the offense has turned the corner. Kansas City scored three runs or fewer in 10 of the 12 games in its 2-10 skid, but on Monday, the top five batters in the order went 10-for-20 with eight runs and six RBIs. The team recorded 13 hits and went 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Butler led the pack with a home run, a pair of singles, three RBIs, two intentional walks and two runs. Emilio Bonifacio went 3-for-5 with a run and a stolen base. Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas had two hits apiece and Salvador Perez hit a three-run homer.
The Royals took an early lead with a first-inning RBI single by Butler, then broke open the game with a four-run third. They tacked on five more in the sixth inning and Butler capped it off with a solo homer in the eighth.
"The offense looks to me like it's back on track," Yost said. "Bonifacio with three hits, Billy with three hits, Sal with the homer. We put pressure on them early, scored the one, then the third inning with the big four-run inning, and then next the big five-run inning. Those were all big innings to give us some breathing room."
The Rays had to make a special trip to Kansas City on an off-day in the middle of a homestand, with the Angels waiting for them when they get home. The 93-degree weather was quite refreshing compared to the first time around, when it was 41 degrees. That day, the wind chill dropped temperatures to 32 degrees, with 20 mph winds gusting up to 32. The game was called after 3 1/3 innings, with the first-place Royals holding a 1-0 lead.
To add to the excitement, former Royals prospect Wil Myers -- who was drafted by Kansas City in 2009 and traded to the Rays in the offseason -- made his long-awaited Kauffman Stadium debut.
"It was cool to be back here. I just had a bad game," said Myers, who went 0-for-4. "I'm not seeing the ball well right now. It's going to come when it comes. The feeling will come back at some point."
Starter Jeremy Guthrie blanked the Rays through three innings before giving up a leadoff double and an RBI single in the fourth. Despite loading the bases, Guthrie escaped with minimal damage after striking out former Royal David DeJesus. Rays manager Joe Maddon disputed the call and was tossed shortly thereafter.
"I still believe the at-bat with DeJesus is a big play," Maddon said. "That could have given us a chance to get back in the game. He's working a good at-bat. He's the kind of kid who does not swing at bad pitches. So then, to reward a pitcher on a bad pitch at a crucial moment ... I didn't like that."
The Royals weren't complaining, especially after seeing two sizable leads erased earlier this week. They blew a 6-0 lead on Friday in an 11-10 loss to Washington and lost a 4-1 lead before taking Sunday's series finale, 6-4..
"I think the last couple of games, the offense has done a great job of getting us out into a lead, and as pitchers, we haven't done our part of holding that up," Guthrie said. "That crossed my mind, especially with my tough outing last time where I gave up the five-run inning. I wanted to protect the lead and get the backs of all these hitters that are battling through and getting a lot of runs."
Guthrie trotted out for one more inning, in which he retired three of the four batters he faced, with one walk. He exited after five innings, allowing six hits, one run and three walks with five strikeouts. Guthrie improved to 13-10 on the season.
"We had a couple of tough situations, and I was really pleased to get out of them," Guthrie said. "I don't think I pitched great today, but it's almost like we won in spite of me, and I am happy to stay out of the way of what those guys were doing with their bats."
With the win, the Royals climbed back to two games over .500, with 31 games to go. In their roller coaster of a season that included surges and slumps before the All-Star break, they rolled to a 19-5 start to the second half before falling off again.
They'll now try to use the past couple of games as a springboard down the stretch.
"Young teams have to find their way to success," Yost said. "You figure out that experience teaches you how to deal with these situations. We're at a spot now where we're at the end of August and we're two games over .500, and we haven't been there in a long, long time. We're definitely making progress. You keep plugging, you keep learning, you keep experiencing and you get better for it every single day."