OAKLAND -- Billy Butler's solo home run in the eighth proved to be the difference in the A's 3-2 win over the Rays Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum.After losing the first game of the four-game series, the A's (45-54) won the final three over the Rays (38-60), taking the lead
OAKLAND -- Billy Butler's solo home run in the eighth proved to be the difference in the A's 3-2 win over the Rays Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum.
After losing the first game of the four-game series, the A's (45-54) won the final three over the Rays (38-60), taking the lead in the eighth inning or later of each win. They've won three consecutive series for the first time since 2014, and are 7-3 since the All-Star break.
"Winning's definitely contagious," Butler said. "I feel like when you come from behind or make surges late, once you do them you have confidence as a team that you're going to do it."
Butler stepped to the plate with one out in the eighth and Erasmo Ramírez quickly got ahead in the count, 0-1. Butler then drove the next pitch over the wall in center for his third home run of the season and a 3-2 A's lead.
"He just had a good swing at the right moment," Ramirez said. "... Sometimes they get a good swing at a nasty slider and they get a homer. Sometimes, you realize this is the big leagues and that's one of the reasons they're here."
Former Rays farmhand Jesse Hahn started for the A's and came through with a stellar performance. When he left the game with two out in the eighth and a runner on first, the A's led, 2-0. But Ryan Dull took over and surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced, Logan Forsythe, tying the game at 2.
Dull entered Sunday's game with a 0.67 ERA over his last 25 games, and had allowed just two inherited runners to score all season. "Ryan Dull has picked us up all year so whenever he does something like that, which is not characteristic of him, it's big to pick him up because he's going to be right back out there in a meaningful situation tomorrow," Butler said.
Blake Snell, who spent time with Hahn in the Minor Leagues and remains his good friend, started for the Rays and surrendered two runs in the first via an RBI double by Khris Davis and an RBI single by Butler. Snell then followed with 5 2/3 scoreless innings before getting lifted with two outs in the seventh.
Snell and Hahn both came away with no-decisions.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Minimizing the damage: The A's got after Snell in the first, but the Rays rookie did a nice job of minimizing the damage. After retiring the first batter, Snell allowed four consecutive hits and the A's scored twice and still had runners at the corners. Snell then retired Ryon Healy on a shallow fly to right before Marcus Semien lined one back to the mound. Snell got his glove up just in time to stop the drive. He then picked up the ball off the ground and threw to first for the final out.
Hahn's stellar return: Hahn used a six-week stint in Triple-A to clear his mind, simplify his mechanics and get back on track, having posted a 22.85 ERA in two June starts prior to his demotion on June 10. He said he began to see signs of a turnaround in Nashville, and it carried over to Sunday, as he cruised through a season-high 7 2/3 innings while scattering just four hits. A's starters have now thrown eight or more innings in their last three games. More >
"He was great," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He pitched similar to the way we saw him last year when he was on a roll. Great outing, too bad he didn't get a win."
Smolinski tears up Tampa:Jake Smolinski's two-run homer spurred Oakland's ninth-inning comeback Saturday, and he didn't let up Sunday afternoon, going 3-for-4. The 27-year-old went 9-for-16 (.563) against the Rays this weekend and has hit safely in his last seven games, bringing his season average to .333. He also delivered a stellar running grab in the eighth to rob Luke Maile of extra bases.
Starters trend continues: Snell was credited with a no-decision Sunday, but he came away with a quality start after holding the A's to two runs in 6 2/3 innings. The Rays have now had quality starts in each of their last six games, their longest such streak in 2016. Over those six games, Rays starters are 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA. In the Oakland series, Rays starters worked 27 2/3 innings and allowed six runs, all earned. More >
The Rays challenged a safe call at first base in the eighth inning when Semien reached on a throw by Forsythe that appeared to draw first baseman Steve Pearce off the bag. After a 2-minute, 17-second delay, the ruling came back that the call on the field stood.
"Again, we came up short. We're all sick and tired of hearing we came up short. But that's kind of what it is right now." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash after the Rays' third straight loss
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Corey Dickerson extended his hitting streak to six games (11-for-25, .440). He is hitting .341 (30-for-88) over his last 25 games.
Rays: After an off-day on Monday, the Rays begin a two-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Chris Archer (5-13, 4.60) will make his 22nd start of the season on Tuesday at 10:10 p.m. ET. He has pitched six-plus innings in his last three starts.
A's: The A's embark on a nine-game road trip, first traveling to Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers beginning Monday at 5:05 p.m. PT. Daniel Mengden (1-5, 5.52) will start for Oakland, hoping for a turnaround after beginning July with an 0-2 record and 9.33 ERA in four starts.
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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.