OAKLAND -- Billy Butler is still adjusting to his platoon role, but Sunday's game, a 4-2 win over the Tigers in which he hit a go-ahead two-run single in the sixth inning, felt familiar.Butler faced Tigers reliever Justin Wilson in a pinch-hitting role on Friday, stepping to the plate as
OAKLAND -- Billy Butler is still adjusting to his platoon role, but Sunday's game, a 4-2 win over the Tigers in which he hit a go-ahead two-run single in the sixth inning, felt familiar.
Butler faced Tigers reliever Justin Wilson in a pinch-hitting role on Friday, stepping to the plate as the potential tying run, but he struck out swinging to end an eighth-inning rally in a 3-0 loss. His pinch-hitting attempt against Wilson on Sunday was more fruitful, as he muscled a liner to center field to give the A's the lead.
"That's the beauty of pinch-hitting," Butler said. "You're either the hero or the zero."
Butler played the role of hero for the second straight day. He drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on Saturday as well, giving Oakland a two-run lead in a game it eventually won, 12-3. And although his appearance on Sunday was brief (he was promptly removed for a pinch-runner), he was again the catalyst.
"That's a big hit," manager Bob Melvin said. "He didn't strike it as hard as he did the other day, but they were playing pretty deep. He had the right approach, and it worked out for him. It worked out for us."
Butler is hitting .230 this season and has only one home run, which he hit on Saturday. He's been used primarily against left-handed pitchers in a platoon role and has said several times that it's been a tough adjustment.
"It's not easy for a guy that's used to playing every day," Melvin said. "Is he getting comfortable with it? He knows what to expect. Whether he's comfortable with it, I don't know, but I know he's prepared for those situations. Those last two days, he's come through for us."
Butler remained on the field following Sunday's win to celebrate with his family, running the bases and playing with his three children. And although he wasn't willing to call this weekend a turning point, he was quick to point out that ups and downs are natural for hitters, and he was mindful that he's produced plenty of reasons to celebrate in his career.
"I've done it before. I did it for a lot of years in K.C. The start of the year, being platooned and not getting a lot of opportunities can be tough, but you just have to be ready for your time and be prepared to do it. You can only control what you can do."
Melvin mixes and matches
Melvin turned to closer Ryan Madson in the eighth inning on Sunday to preserve what was, at the time, a one-run lead, and called on former closer Sean Doolittle to work the ninth. Melvin said the decision was purely matchup-based, as Madson was facing the heart of Detroit's order.
"That's why I've been so against naming a particular closer. Sometimes it's going to work out like that," Melvin said. "Madson has the most saves, but there will be times, matchups-wise, it will work the other way."
Madson blew his last save opportunity, on Tuesday against the Mariners, but is 11-of-13 this season on chances. Likewise, Doolittle has been sturdy, going 3-of-4 in save chances while allowing only one run in his last eight appearances.
Doolittle said that it's clear Madson is the closer, but it's also expected that the late-inning roles can adjust based on circumstance.
"I think Bob has done a really good job of communicating to us certain scenarios where something like today might happen," Doolittle said.
"He's been our best guy, he's our closer. Sometimes there's scenarios where maybe in the eighth inning, the biggest three outs of the game are going to come up," said Melvin. "To the victor goes spoils. He's been pitching so well, here's your reward, go get J.D. Martinez, [Miguel Cabrera] and Victor Martinez. That was the biggest inning of the game for us."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland.