Surprise came first for Billy Butler, then anger. That was the primary emotion he felt Sunday, when he wheeled around to chirp at home plate umpire Marty Foster following the fifth inning of the Royals’ 5-2 loss to the Angels.
Foster, who has been no stranger to controversy in the Angels’ four-game sweep of the Royals, had just wrung up Butler on a 1-2 cutter with runners on first and second to end the scoring threat, and Butler — who thought the pitch was clearly inside — was ejected only moments later.
No one knew it at the time — the Royals led 2-0 heading into the sixth — but Butler’s presence would be missed, as Los Angeles rallied to score five runs and hold off the punchless Royals, who proceeded to leave a combined seven runners on base over the last four innings before a crowd of 21,171 at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s just unfortunate that runners in scoring position came up later in the game,” said Butler, whose replacement, Jeff Francoeur, left four runners on base over the last four innings. “I should have been out there.”
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The episode was just the latest in an eventful series for Foster, who also threw Chris Getz out of a 7-0 loss on Saturday for arguing a bang-bang play at first that resulted in a rally-killing double play. Foster also made a controversial call in a 5-2 loss on Friday, when he incorrectly ruled Mike Trout safe at second on a steal attempt in the seventh inning. The game was scoreless at the time.
Butler said both moments weighed in his mind during his encounter with Foster on Sunday.
“Frustration got the best of me,” said Butler, who was ejected after yelling at Foster from the dugout. “It was just a compounding thing. … Things have happened in the last few days that went into it. The frustration was there for those reasons.”
Also adding to the frustration was the fact that with the loss, the Royals dropped to 21-26 and have now lost nine of their last 10 games. They also wasted a strong performance from starter Wade Davis, who dropped to 3-4 despite holding the Angels scoreless through six innings.
“Through six innings he was as good as he’s been all year long,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Things changed for Davis in the seventh, however. A leadoff homer by Josh Hamilton cut the deficit to one, and after Davis issued a pair of walks, left-hander Bruce Chen allowed a pair of RBI singles to J.B. Shuck and Erick Aybar that gave the Angels a 3-2 lead.
That suddenly put the onus on the Royals’ struggling offense, which jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Sunday with a RBI triple from David Lough in the second inning and a run-scoring throwing error by Angels starter Jerome Williams in the fifth but has now scored three runs or fewer on seven occasions over the last ten days.
The Royals put a runner in scoring position in the seventh when Chris Getz singled and stole second, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to walk Alex Gordon with two outs to get to Francoeur, who came in batting .222.
“I like the way he was swinging the bat,” Yost said of his choice to replace Butler with Francoeur, who had five hits in his last 15 at-bats entering the game. “He had a chance to get a hold of one and maybe give us a chance to get some quick runs.”
But after the Angels tacked on a pair of runs in the eighth — Chris Iannetta and Shuck added a pair of RBI singles that put the Angels ahead 5-2 — the Royals stranded two more runners in the bottom of the inning, as left-hander Scott Downs retired Adam Moore on a groundout with runners on first and third.
The Royals mounted one last threat in the ninth, as reliever Ernesto Frieri issued a leadoff walk to Getz and allowed a single to Alcides Escobar. But Frieri bounced back to preserve the win for starter Williams, 4-1, and earn his tenth save by striking out Gordon, forcing a Francoeur pop fly — after a 12-pitch at-bat, no less — and a Hosmer ground out to clinch the win for the Angels, who improved to 24-27.
Afterward, the Royals could do little but seethe at the result of another game marked by an altercation with Foster. That, perhaps, is doubly true for Butler, who grew even angrier after looking at the replay of the called third strike that led to his ejection.
“A guy sets up away, he throws it that far in. … I just didn’t agree with it,” Butler said.
“I don’t think it was the whole crew — we know who it was,” Butler said. “Just a bad series all the way around.”
The same can be said for the overall play of the Royals, who were once 17-10 on the season and have now lost five straight. They will try to turn things around at 1:10 p.m. on Monday, when right-hander James Shields takes the mound against St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright at Kauffman Stadium.
“We haven’t played well and we know it,” Butler said. “We’re not playing the way we know we can…a lot of guys are frustrated right now. But it takes nothing away from what our expectations were in spring training or what they are now. They have not changed. We’ve just got to get back to playing good baseball.”