Billy Butler met the question with three one-liners, one for each base he’d touched on his first triple since 2012.
First: “I was a little out of breath.”
Second: “(Billy Burns) had a triple – he was definitely a whole base ahead of me.”
Third: “I mean, the only thing I thought about when I got that triple was it took away from my double total.”
In retrospect, it also helped jump-start the A’s to a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. Butler eventually tagged up and scored the game’s first run in the second inning on Eric Sogard’s sacrifice fly – another display of speed from the designated hitter nicknamed “Country Breakfast” – and later drove in a run in the fifth with a key two-out hit.
A’s starter Jesse Hahn, the beneficiary of both runs, said reaction in the A’s dugout while Butler legged out his triple was “funny.”
“I felt like (third-base coach Mike Gallego) over there,” Hahn said. “I was doing the whole wheel thing with my arm. That kind of sparked us a little bit.”
Butler lined the ball to the wall in left field, and when Colorado’s Rafael Ynoa hit the wall hard and went down in pain, the ball bounced away, allowing Butler to lumber into third. Ynoa stayed in the game after being visited by a trainer.
The sacrifice fly was more straightforward: Butler tagged up on the medium-deep fly ball and scored easily as Ynoa’s throw was low and off-line.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried,” Hahn said. “But he put his head down, gave it all he had, and the guy made a bad throw.”
Butler’s triple was his first since August 2012. But it was also his fourth extra-base hit in four games. He had four total in 32 games before that. Over his past 12 games, Butler is 12 for 37, and he reached base three times Wednesday. His season average is up to .259, and at the halfway point he has six home runs and 36 RBIs.
“My first half’s definitely been nothing for me to write about,” Butler said. “It’s a long year. Ran into some bad luck earlier in the year, but I’m in a good stretch now. Played this game long enough to know that you have your ups and downs and you’ve just got to stay consistent.”
▪ Hahn improved to 5-2 with a 2.42 ERA over his past eight starts. Melvin said Hahn did not have his best stuff Wednesday and left a lot of pitches up but overcame those issues to hold the Rockies to one run on four hits in six innings.
Hahn said the biggest key to his improvement has been “fastball command, and some of the mistake pitches I was making earlier in the year, I think I eliminated those. I know I have to get the ball down and I have to hit my spots, which I don’t think I was doing that great a job with early on.”
The Rockies came into this series as the highest-scoring offense in the National League in June but were held to four runs over the three games. Nolan Arenado, the reigning National League Player of the Week, went 2 for 12 during the series with no RBIs and no extra-base hits.
“He’s a guy that in 250-some at-bats (before the series) had only walked eight times, not including the intentional, so we really wanted to make him chase,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
“But (the Rockies) definitely get your attention. We pitched well, all the starters. And that’s what we have to do to beat a team like that. We’re not going to go toe-to-toe with them as far as scoring runs.”
▪ The A’s scored two runs Wednesday on two-out hits. The first was a momentum swing – Billy Burns led off the third inning with a triple, but Stephen Vogt and Ben Zobrist both failed to drive him in by grounding out. Josh Reddick, though, lined a single to right field to give the A’s a 2-0 lead.
It was Reddick’s 49th RBI, putting him on pace for 98 over 162 games. Melvin afterward lobbied for Reddick as a potential All-Star, though he is probably a long shot.
“You couple (the RBIs) with his defense and what he means to this team, a middle-of-the-order guy knocking in big runs for us,” Melvin said. “We get a man on third and can’t get a situational at-bat, and then he comes up with a key hit. He’s meant as much to our team this year as he has any year he’s been here. For me, it’s All-Star material.”
The other two-out hit belonged to Butler. After the Rockies pitched around Reddick to load the bases with two outs in the fifth inning, Butler lined a single into right field off starter Chad Bettis to give the A’s and Hahn a 3-1 lead.
“That’s where I’d say you win ballgames,” Butler said. “Those ones are tough ones to come by. We just kept tacking on runs, and it was a good team win.”
▪ Melvin said Sonny Gray was released from the hospital and is expected to be back with the A’s and in uniform Thursday. Gray was hospitalized because of severe gastroenteritis Monday night and was scratched from his start Tuesday.
Melvin said the A’s are still waiting to determine whether Gray will make his scheduled start Sunday against the Mariners. If not, it will be Chris Bassitt.
▪ Tyler Clippard recorded the final four outs to notch his 14th save and third this season of more than one inning. Melvin said he brought Clippard in with two outs in the eighth partly because the A’s are in a stretch of playing 14 consecutive days and he’s trying to conserve some bullpen innings.
Melvin said he likely won’t ask Clippard to pitch an inning-plus on consecutive days. “But we felt (Wednesday) like with the part of the order coming up, he could keep his pitch count manageable,” Melvin said. Clippard recorded the four outs on 18 pitches.
▪ The A’s next host the Mariners for a four-game series, their last at home before the All-Star break. The pitching probables:
Thursday: LHP Scott Kazmir (4-5, 2.79) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (4-5, 4.25)
Friday: RHP Jesse Chavez (4-7, 3.02) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (3-5, 3.89)
Saturday: RHP Kendall Graveman (5-4, 3.47) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (10-4, 3.05)
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (3-2, 1.62)