MILWAUKEE — Billy Butler is making the most of his playing time lately.
He drew a start at first base for the A’s on Tuesday and jolted their offense out of hibernation, hitting a two-run homer with two outs in the seventh that broke up the no-hit bid of Brewers starter Zach Davies. Butler drove in another run with a ground ball in the ninth for his second 3-RBI game in the past eight that he’s played, though it didn’t prevent the A’s 5-4 loss to the Brewers.
“We just couldn’t pull through,” Butler said. “We had a chance to win in the end. That’s all you can ask for. We just didn’t get it done.”
Butler is hitting .412 (7-for-17) with 10 RBI over his last eight games, after driving in just six over his first 29 games. With Danny Valencia out with a stomach illness Tuesday, Yonder Alonso slid over to third base, opening the opportunity for Butler to play first. (There’s no DH available while the A’s are in a National League ballpark). It was just his ninth start of the season against a right-handed pitcher.
“Those sinkers (from a right-hander) look a little bit tough,” Butler said. “I haven’t seen them in a while. The only thing that’s tough for me is the movement. … That’s just the first thing that goes or the first thing you start to pick back up on. Shrinking the zone and picking up movement better. That comes with pitches, and it comes with at-bats.”
Whether Butler starts again Wednesday is related to Valencia’s availability. If Valencia feels well enough to handle third, Alonso will likely play first because he’s also swinging a hot bat. If Valencia can’t, Alonso probably draws a second straight start at third and Butler will be at first.
Alonso made a very nice play charging in on a ball and making a bare-hand grab and throw to first Tuesday. As for Butler, he was involved in a very interesting play at first. Ryan Braun smoked a hard grounder right at him in the sixth. The ball ricocheted off Butler’s left palm and Braun reached safely.
It was a borderline call that could have been judged a hit or error. But as soon as Braun reached first, and before a scoring decision had been made, the scoreboard announced that it was Braun’s 1,500th career hit. He received a big ovation and after all the hoopla, it was all but impossible for the official scorer to rule it an error at that point.
Butler, for his part, didn’t disagree with it being ruled a hit.
“I’ve got to go ice my hand,” he said about the play. “It hit me right around the wrist. I felt it when I was hitting. … That ball was crushed. I don’t think I got a real good view of it.”