Baltimore Billy Butler had already cleared the most difficult obstacles of hitting for the cycle, including a home run and his first triple since 2009.
All he needed was a measly little single in his final two at-bats to become the seventh player in the history of the Kansas City Royals to complete the cycle.
Butler fell short, but that was one of very few negatives for the Royals in an 8-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.
Butler finished with three RBIs and scored three runs, and Alex Gordon homered and had three hits to help Kansas City end the Orioles’ five-game winning streak and take the luster off Manny Machado’s impressive major league debut.
Butler homered in a four-run first inning, doubled in the third and tripled in the fifth. Vying to become the first Kansas City player to hit for the cycle since George Brett in 1990, Butler struck out against Matt Lindstrom in the seventh and submariner Darren O’Day in the ninth.
“I really didn’t have much to hit,” Butler said. “They pitched me tough with some really good sliders. O’Day is not somebody a right-hander is going to have much success against at all. I know I haven’t in my history. I’m just trying to take him the other way and it just didn’t work out. He’s going to get most righties out all of the time.”
Butler is 11 for 24 (.458) with three homers and five RBIs in six games against Baltimore this season.
“Butler’s one of the top five right-handed hitters in baseball,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “This guy is solid. You look at his track record. I try not to feel like he’s picking on us. We made some good pitches on him the last couple at-bats, but we made some mistakes on him and good hitters are going to pounce on those.”
Machado, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, went 2 for 4 and played flawlessly at third base in his first game above the Double-A level. The 20-year-old grounded out in the second inning, tripled in the fifth, beat out a slow roller to second base in the seventh and popped out to end the game.
“I thought Manny did well, presented himself well tonight,” Showalter said. “I’m proud of him. There was a nice calmness about him and a good start. He handled the situation well, all things considered.”
Machado was pleased with his performance but disappointed with the final score.
“It would have been way much better if we would have come out with a win, but they did a good job,” the rookie said.
Asked if this taste of success might carry over, Machado replied, “I’ve still got a long year and a lot more at-bats to go. But for the first night I think it went great.”
Matt Wieters homered for the Orioles, who failed for a sixth time this season to extend a five-game winning streak to six.
Baltimore rookie Wei-Yin Chen (10-7) allowed a career-high seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings. Coming off two straight starts in which he did not allow an earned run, the Taiwanese left-hander yielded a home run to Gordon on the second pitch of the game and never got back on track.
Will Smith (3-4) gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings for the Royals, who have won four of five.
“That was a great game,” manager Ned Yost said. “We tacked on runs on three or four different occasions. (Alcides) Escobar was spectacular at shortstop. Great defense. We hit homers. We hit doubles. We played very, very well.”
Kansas City took a 4-0 lead before Chen could get an out. After Gordon hit his third leadoff homer of the season, Escobar and Lorenzo Cain followed with singles before Butler homered on a 1-1 pitch.
In the second inning, Machado received a warm ovation from the crowd of 21,226 before his first at-bat. With two on and two outs, he hit a chopper to Escobar and was thrown out by a step.
The Royals used doubles by Butler, Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur to make it 6-0 in the third. Moustakas was 2 for 27 lifetime against Baltimore before his run-scoring hit.
Chen’s night ended in the fifth, when Butler tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Salvador Perez.
In the bottom half, Machado tripled and scored on a fly ball by Nick Markakis to make it 7-1. Escobar hit an RBI single in the sixth, and Wieters connected in the Orioles’ half.
NOTES: To make room for Machado, the Orioles optioned RHP Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk. The move comes one day after Johnson beat Seattle in his first major league start. ... Machado is the first position player to make his debut with the Orioles before his 21st birthday since Eugene Kingsale in 1996. ... Gordon has eight career leadoff homers ... The Royals have nine home runs in their last five games.