ST. LOUIS -- Jason Motte suffered his fourth blown save on Sunday, and, in what has become too regular an occurrence, the right-hander was stung by the long ball.
Billy Butler's two-out, two-strike blast off Motte tied Sunday's game at 2 in the ninth. The Royals eventually claimed the win, 5-3, in 15 innings.
Last year at this time, Motte had thrown 28 1/3 innings and had not allowed a single homer. This season, the story has been different. Five home runs have already been hit off Motte in 31 2/3 innings. Twice a home run led to a blown save. In two other instances, Motte shouldered the loss as a result.
Motte allowed just two home runs in 68 innings last year. And in 2010, five balls were hit out off him in 52 1/3 innings.
"I don't even know," Motte said when asked about the concerning trend. "I don't know if it's more guessing, if they look more into me now that I've been around a couple years. But I think also that a lot of the home runs I have given up have been on pitches up."
That was the case on Sunday, as Butler drove a waist-high fastball over the fence. The challenge in mending this problem, though, is that Motte isn't looking to stop pitching up in the strike zone. That's where he also gets a good number of swings and misses. It's often where his four-seam fastball is most effective.
Motte also doesn't second-guess pitch selection, noting that he will continue to mix his cutter and fastball. The Cardinals' closer threw eight four-seam fastballs in the nine pitches before Butler's teed off, perhaps leaving Butler in position to correctly guess what was coming next. However, Butler had also just swung through one of those fastballs, clocked at the same 98 mph as the one he hit out.
"Not that they know a fastball is coming, but I'm a fastball pitcher," Motte said. "I've had guys sit on it before and pop it right off. It's not the pitch. I'm going to keep throwing fastballs. I'm not going to all of a sudden become a curveball, knuckleball guy."