Returning to Seattle this week now officially in the big leagues, Butler got reacquainted with the site that will forever hold a special memory for him, homering as part of a two-hit effort in Oakland’s 5-4 series finale loss to the Mariners on Wednesday afternoon.
“Coming back here twice almost within a month, once as a Minor Leaguer and once as a big leaguer, that was a pretty cool experience,” Butler said. “Seattle has a beautiful ballpark with great fans, so it was a lot of fun.”
Power is one of an array of tools that have Butler -- rated Oakland’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- projected for such a high ceiling. It was evident in his first career home run -- a 437-foot blast back on Aug. 15 at Busch Stadium -- and showed up again on Wednesday for his second Major League blast.
Facing hard-throwing Mariners starter Bryce Miller in the second inning, Butler ambushed a first-pitch fastball and pulled it halfway up the seats in right-center for a majestic 431-foot two-run shot that was tagged 109.4 mph off the bat, according to Statcast.
“[Hitting coach] Tommy [Everidge] told us in the gameplan that [Miller] likes his fastball,” Butler said. “So I was kind of just sitting on the fastball the majority of the day.”
Two innings later, Butler demonstrated his impressive two-strike approach, swatting a 3-2 fastball from Miller for an opposite-field single to left.
“For Butler, today was a good day,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “You saw him hit the ball the other way and pull a homer to the gap. All things we’ve heard a lot about. His ability to drive the baseball showed again today. I think the more at-bats he gets, the more comfortable he’s going to be and the more confident he’s going to get.”
Now having played in 19 Major League games, Butler continues to go through the learning curve that most young hitters encounter early in their careers. Entering Wednesday, the 23-year-old outfielder had only drawn one walk in 57 plate appearances, while also keeping his strikeout total relatively low with 13.
Improved plate discipline was a key to Butler getting his first call to the Majors, so the A’s would like to see that walk rate go up. Still, the majority of his at-bats remain highly competitive, including his showdown with Mariners closer Andres Muñoz in the ninth, when he battled to a 3-2 count before swinging through a 99.1 mph fastball for strike three.
“The league is definitely attacking him,” Kotsay said of Butler. “He’s had some three-ball counts. He doesn’t strike out a ton. Overall, I think his approach is good. He competes with two strikes and tries to put the ball in play. With time, the walks will come.”
The A’s viewed this series against a first-place Mariners squad as a chance to see how they stack up in a tough American League West for next year and beyond.
While the bullpen squandered an opportunity to secure a series victory on Wednesday after starter Zach Neal held Seattle to three runs over five innings with a career-high six strikeouts, the entire three-game set allowed Butler and the rest of this young A’s team to compete in a playoff-like atmosphere in front of large crowds.
“It’s a good experience for the future when we’re in those games,” A’s starting pitcher Ken Waldichuk said after Tuesday’s win. “The crowd here is pretty electric. It’s a really good experience to be in these kinds of situations.”
“That was actually one of the most fun series I’ve played in so far,” Butler added. “It was like 44,000 [fans on Tuesday night], and it was crazy loud. That was a very cool experience.”