OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With a little more playing time these past few days, Athletics slugger Billy Butler is finally getting comfortable at the plate — even in a rare appearance against a right-hander.
It might not be enough to get him out of a part-time role in Oakland. Still, it’s a step in the right direction for the former All-Star first baseman.
Butler hit a tiebreaking home run off Erasmo Ramirez with one out in the eighth inning and the A’s held on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday.
“I’ve shown it my career, I can come through in those situations day in and day out,” Butler said after helping the A’s complete a 7-3 homestand. “It’s one of those things where I really haven’t had any opportunities to be frustrated. I just haven’t had my number called a lot. Coming through in those situations, maybe I’ll get my number called more.”
Oakland lost the first game of this series then won the next two on walkoff hits. The A’s led 2-0 in the finale until Logan Forsythe’s tying two-run homer in the top of the eighth.
Ramirez (7-8) retired Khris Davis on a fly ball before Butler hammered an 0-1 pitch over the wall in center. It’s Butler’s third home run of the season and first since June 7.
Butler also had an RBI single in the first, giving him 18 RBIs over his last 35 games.
“It’s tough for a guy that plays every day to try to get himself into a rhythm if he’s not, but that’s a big hit today,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s staying positive . but this has been a tough year for him, based on the fact he’s asked to do something he’s not used to doing.”
Davis added two hits while Jake Smolinski doubled twice and scored for the A’s.
Ryan Dull (4-2) retired two batters for the win despite giving up Forsythe’s home run. Ryan Madson pitched the ninth for his 21st save.
“Home runs have beat us up a lot this year,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Obviously when you give up that many, they’re coming at the wrong time.”
Forsythe’s home run in the eighth ruined an otherwise stellar day for A’s starter Jesse Hahn.
Called up from the minors before the game, Hahn faced just two over the minimum through six innings and allowed only one runner to reach second base before leaving with a 2-0 lead with two outs in the eighth. The right-hander walked one and matched his season-high of five strikeouts.
Oakland jumped on Tampa Bay rookie left-hander Blake Snell early and strung together four consecutive one-out hits in the first. Davis had an RBI double and Butler added a run-scoring single to put the A’s up 2-0.
Snell allowed two runs over 6 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked two.
With only one fully healthy player (Matt McBride) available off the bench Melvin was asked if he had any pitchers he’d consider using as positional players if the need arose. “I’ve got a couple of guys that would like to do it,” Melvin said, specifically mentioning Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman. “I hope I don’t get to that point. Position players always think they can pitch . and pitchers who are athletic always think they can play positions.”
Rays: Desmond Jennings (strained left hamstring) ran the bases and took batting practice without a setback during a minor league rehab appearance. … RHP Brad Boxberger threw 22 pitches in a rehab outing and is hopeful of rejoining the big league club in Los Angeles.
Athletics: Coco Crisp was a late scratch because of neck soreness. He joined Josh Reddick (lower back soreness) on the bench. … Rich Hill threw 30 pitches while wearing a protective covering on the middle finger of his left hand. Hill, who left his last start after five pitches because of a blister, will continue to throw bullpens for conditioning until the blister heals. … Arismendy Alcantara was optioned to Triple-A Nashville.
Rays: RHP Chris Archer (5-13) pitches against the Dodgers in the opener of a two-game series on Tuesday. Archer entered the weekend leading the AL with 147 strikeouts.
Athletics: RHP Daniel Mengden (1-1) returns to his native Texas to face the Rangers on Monday. Mengden was born in Houston and attended Texas A&M.
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