Andrew Benintendi and Salvador Perez, the KC Royals’ trusty No. 3 and 4 hitters, proved Tuesday night why manager Mike Matheny lines them up where he does.
The two combined to drive in almost all of Kansas City’s runs in the club’s 10-5, series-sweeping victory over Pittsburgh. Behind the strength of three home runs between them, including a grand slam, Benintendi and Perez accounted for eight of KC’s runs.
And in the process, they accomplished something that no Kansas City No. 3 and 4 hitters have done in almost 12 years.
Dave Holtzman, the Royals’ associate producer of information and graphics, shared the fact on Twitter:
Let’s take a 12-year step back in time and see what the Royals were like when Billy Butler and Miguel Olivo pulled off the same feat.
“Country Breakfast” and Olivo lead the KC Royals to victory over Chicago.
The year was 2009. Alex Gordon was still playing third base, David DeJesus, Willie Bloomquist, and Mitch Maier (now the Royals’ Director of Baseball Operations) filled the outfield, and John Buck was catching Luke Hochevar on a mid-September day as he squared off against Mark Buehrle of the White Sox.
Many remember Hochevar as the first overall pick in the 2006 draft who struggled and couldn’t seem to get things together until his 2013 move to the bullpen and the Royals’ World Series championship run in 2015. (He missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery). In 2009, though, Hochevar had a 6.55 ERA. Needless to say, it was a forgetful time for Royals fans.
However, on Sept. 18 Kansas City managed to not only defeat the White Sox, but shut them out 11-0. Though “Country Breakfast” (Butler) is a name KC fans are familiar with, it was Miguel Olivo, a former catcher who spent just two years with the organization, who took charge that night as the designated hitter.
Olivo walked in the top of third inning to score Alex Gordon on a bases loaded play. Then, after Butler walked to lead off the sixth, Olivo hit a two-run homer to left, extending the lead to 3-0. In the top of seventh, Butler was intentionally walked by Chicago’s Tony Pena (not former Royal and present KC coach Tony Pena Jr.) to load the bases. Olivo proceeded to come up to the plate and drive in DeJesus with a sacrifice fly.
Butler and Olivo finished out the night in the eighth with Butler, being the doubles machine he was (his 276 doubles place him seventh on KC’s all-time list), getting just that to drive in pinch runner Luis Hernandez and DeJesus for another two runs. Olivo, not to be outdone, hit another blast to drive in himself and Butler and extend the lead to 10-0.
Butler, Olivo, and what the aftermath of the KC Royals’ 2009 season brought.
Billy Butler finished out the 2009 season as one of the only bright spots for the KC Royals, slashing .301/.362/.492 with a .853 OPS, including 51 doubles. He made the All-Star team and won the Silver Slugger award in 2012. Butler helped lead the club to the 2014 World Series, and when his option was declined, he signed with the Oakland A’s as a free agent for 2015.
He lasted with the A’s until 2016 when, after getting into a fight with teammate Danny Valencia in September, Butler was released. He joined the New York Yankees a few days later but was not re-signed.
Although he hasn’t played in the majors since, Butler is still active in the sport. He presently serves as hitting coach for the Idaho Falls Chukars of the Pioneer League, one of baseball’s Partner Leagues this season, and still connects with the KC Royals organization, having been part of the annual broadcast charity auction doing a suite meet and greet in May.
Olivo hit .249/.292.490 with a .781 OPS to round out his 2009 season and after the KC Royals declined his option, he signed with the Rockies. He spent a year in Colorado before bouncing around to the Mariners, Marlins, and Dodgers. After being sent down to Triple-A in 2014 to play for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Olivo was released after biting off a teammate’s ear during his own altercation. He hasn’t played since he was a member of the Mexican League’s Bravos de Leon in 2017.
Meanwhile, the KC Royals extended their record to 60-87 after their win over the White Sox in 2009. They only won five more times before the season’s end to finish 65-97 under manager Trey Hillman, who was fired 35 games into the 2010 season and replaced by Ned Yost, who eventually became the club’s winningest skipper.
Although Butler’s and Olivo’s careers ended with a whimper, it can be safely said that won’t happen to Andrew Benintendi and Salvador Perez. Benintendi, acquired by the Royals in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, is leading the team with a .291 batting average while Perez, a club mainstay since 2011, has the second best average at .280, and is currently leading the club with 36 RBIs and 12 home runs.
Keeping in mind the plethora of talented young prospects currently at Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, the Royals look to be on their way up and in a much better place when compared to the 2009 season.
Andrew Benintendi and Salvador Perez combined for eight RBIs Tuesday night against the Pirates. The last time the KC Royals’ No. 3 and 4 batters did that was 2009 with Billy Butler and Miguel Olivo. Things are different now, though, as Benintendi and Perez look to be two of the pillars that will hold the future of the team together.