MIAMI (AP) — Billy Butler is one of the main reasons behind the Kansas City Royals’ impressive turnaround.
Bruce Chen is making his own contributions on the mound.
Butler looks to continue his tear at the plate and Chen goes for another strong start as the Royals again attempt to capitalize on the struggling Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.
Winning 17 of 20 has made Kansas City (62-54) a factor in the AL wild-card race after owning a 45-51 record on July 22.
Butler is certainly impacting the surge, hitting .372 in 26 games after owning a .263 average over his first 50.
“The first half was definitely a grind for me. I was kind of hit or miss,” Butler said. “I was doing my same stuff, but wasn’t getting the results. I’ve been feeling good ever since the second half started. I’m just taking confidence from each day and letting it build.
“I’ve always been better in the second half throughout my career.”
Butler is hitting .339 after the All-Star break over the past two seasons, fourth-best in the majors. He continued his recent success with a solo homer for one of his two hits during Monday’s 6-2 win over Miami to open this three-game series.
The designated hitter is 12 for 25 with two homers, four RBIs and six runs during a six-game hitting streak.
Chen (5-0, 1.79 ERA) is also making a difference for the Royals, going 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in five starts since being inserted in the rotation.
“I’m feeling comfortable and I’m feeling good, but most importantly, I’m doing everything I can to help this team win,” Chen told the team’s official website. “I’m just glad that I’m able to do it as a starter and I’m glad I’m able to do it so far so well. I just want to keep it going so I can help this team any way I can.”
The 36-year-old left-hander certainly helped Thursday, when he tossed 7 2-3 scoreless innings in a 5-1 win over AL East-leading Boston.
“He’s just been as sharp as a tack since he came back, even in his first game,” manager Ned Yost said. “He continues to have that consistency every time out.”
Chen will face the Marlins (44-73) for the first time since 2006, and his last start against them came in 2001.
Miami will counter Chen with 21-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez (8-5, 2.58 ERA), who has the team hoping for a bright future.
Fernandez, though, is coming off a shaky performance in Thursday’s 5-4, 10-inning loss at Pittsburgh. The right-hander allowed two runs with five strikeouts and four walks in five innings. He was 3-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 29 innings over his previous four games.
“Eventually the league is going to adjust to Fernandez and he’s going to have to adjust,” manager Mike Redmond told the team’s official website.
Fernandez seems in need of an adjustment on the road, where he’s 3-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 11 starts compared to 5-0 with a 1.39 ERA in 11 at home.
He’s lost both his road starts in interleague play, surrendering 11 runs and 11 hits with eight strikeouts and five walks in 8 1-3 innings.
The Marlins, who stranded 11 runners Monday, are hitting .202 with 19 runs while dropping eight of nine games.
“We don’t have the offense to cover up any mistakes and right now we’re making too many mistakes,” Redmond said.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)