ST. LOUIS -- Maybe now Billy Butler is getting the hang of this pinch-hitting gig. Nothing like a last-ditch, game-tying home run to help the learning curve.
With the designated hitter eliminated on National League turf, Butler found himself in a pinch-hitter's role for the Royals in St. Louis. (Moving Eric Hosmer from first base to right field for two games at Pittsburgh and keeping Butler in the lineup at first base exposed defensive shortcomings, so manager Ned Yost decided to platoon the two at first base in NL cities.)
"It's new. I do a little bit each year. It's definitely not an easy job. You get one chance to do it and you've just got to act like it's a normal at-bat," Butler said before the Royals' 15-inning, 5-3 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.
Butler is an advanced student of the hitting art but, normally an everyday player, he claimed he hadn't quite mastered the nuances of pinch-hitting.
"When I get it figured out, I'll tell you," Butler said. "I've haven't done it enough to even know how to do it."
Until Butler, batting for Humberto Quintero, blasted Jason Motte's 0-2 pitch out of the park to give the Royals a 2-2 tie on Sunday, he had never hit a homer or driven in a run as a pinch-hitter. This was his 30th pinch-hitting appearance and made him 7-for-26 (.269).
On Monday night at Houston, Yost said that Butler would be back at first base against left-hander J.A. Happ with Hosmer in the bench role. Hosmer's career as a pinch hitter? He's 0-for-1.
Maybe he can seek out Butler for some tips. Billy seems to be getting the hang of it.