video thumbnail

Butler belts a two-run blast in the first

ANAHEIM -- Perhaps the Los Angeles Angels might want to put off printing those World Series tickets for just a bit.

Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer each had a home run and three RBIs on Sunday as the cheeky Royals again beat the oh-so-heavenly Angels, 7-3, to take the opening series, two games to one, while 32,727 believers watched in disbelief.

The red, white and blue bunting seemed to droop at Angel Stadium as the Royals bounced back for a second straight victory after being shut out in the opener. It was reminiscent of last year's first series in Kansas City, where the Royals lost the opener and then took three straight from the Halos.

"We knew there'd be a lot of hype, and they've got a phenomenal team. We knew that it would be a big task and a big challenge," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You try not to say this is a big test for us because this is the first three games of the year, but we stood up and played them extremely well and I'm proud of that."

Still, Albert Pujols and the Angels did not crash without a final frantic flutter of their wings. It took three straight strikeouts by giant Jonathan Broxton to finish them in the ninth inning. The reward: his first save with the Royals.

Butler's two-run shot that barely cleared the center-field wall and the straining Peter Bourjos' glove presented Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez a 3-0 lead in the first inning before he took the mound.

"I thought it was going to hit the big wall out there," said Hosmer, on base with an RBI single. "I was pretty much standing on second watching, and it just got out of there -- and that was big."

Big because it gave Sanchez room to breathe and to escape some jams in his five innings. This was his first Major League appearance since Aug. 16 with the Giants.

"The first inning with a new team and you've spent a long time without throwing in the big leagues, so I was a little bit pumped," Sanchez said. "After that, I just settled down and kept pitching."

Sanchez got the victory after throwing 99 pitches with three walks and a couple wild pitches.

"Your first start, you're always amped up, but what I was so impressed with was he really controlled the damage, he limited the damage," Yost said. "He did a really good job of that. He made pitches when he needed to."

Helping Sanchez ease in, Hosmer belted a two-run shot in the fifth against Angels starter Ervin Santana. Chris Getz knocked in a run in the sixth and Butler doubled home another in the seventh for a 7-2 lead.

Royals relievers Jose Mijares and Kelvin Herrera, in their 2012 debuts, each got through a scoreless inning. But, in the eighth, Herrera gave up a homer to Vernon Wells, and after two more hits, Yost waved in Aaron Crow to deal with the problem.

"He snuffed it," Yost said.

Indeed, Crow got two quick outs to end the eighth. But in the ninth, Howie Kendrick's single and a four-pitch walk to Pujols ended Crow's outing. From the bullpen came the hulking figure of Broxton.

It took some time -- Broxton kept conferring with catcher Humberto Quintero to decide on pitch sequences -- but the results were worth the wait. Broxton struck out Torii Hunter. He struck out Wells. He struck out Kendrys Morales. Game over.

"I tried to get out of it and not even try to let a run score -- I mean, that was my goal out there. Just get out of it as quick as I can without letting them get anything else started," Broxton said.

Mission accomplished. Pitching in place of disabled closer Joakim Soria, Broxton also had finished up Saturday's 6-3 victory and this was the first time he'd been in back-to-back games all spring.

"He's fine; he's ready; he's been built up; he's strong; he feels good," Yost said. "It was a great outing by him."

The Angels' wings had been clipped and the young Royals had earned respect from the vanquished.

"They're a great ballclub," the Angels' Mark Trumbo said. "You look up and down their order and they have a tremendous amount of talent. We have a lot of respect for what they do."

With one big inning the Angels had won the opener, 5-0, but they never held a lead in the last two games.

"It was a good test for our ball team," Hosmer said. "For sure, they are a great team over there. I think this was a big statement for us, to come out and take two of three, but the biggest thing is we all like how we bounced back from the first game. I think everybody was a little too excited, too amped up for the Opening Day, so it was big to bounce back."

Or as Butler put it: "It just proves Opening Day is not the most important day." Comments