OAKLAND — 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.