If the Oakland Athletics still hope to contend in this 2015 season, they must get scorching hot now and stay that way through September. The first series after the All-Star break showcased some key things that the A’s must continue to do during the second half. Timely hitting and base running by Rookie of the Year contender Billy Burns in extra innings on Saturday night, followed by the first regular season walk-off hit for Stephen Vogt gave the Athletics only their second walk-off win of the season. As was the case in the past, clutch hitting in close games needs to be a more regular part of Oakland’s M.O.
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On Sunday afternoon, not only did the Oakland Athletics get the win against a left-handed pitcher – none other than former teammate Tommy Milone – the offense exploded with five home runs and 14 runs total. The homers included a grand slam by Josh Reddick, a two home run game for Jake Smolinski (more about him soon), and the second homer in as many games for Billy Butler. Much has been written about the disappointing season Butler has had so far, but there is plenty of time for him to turn things around with his new team this season.
If this last series is any indication, that is exactly what Billy Butler plans to do. The All-Star break is the perfect opportunity for teams like the Oakland Athletics to not only rejuvenate, but also to recharge and regroup for the second half. If anyone in the green and gold needed such time, it was Billy Butler. He came into the All-Star break with a .249/.315/.377 slash line, which was among the lowest numbers of Oakland’s everyday players. And, if Billy Beane’s decision to sign Butler hadn’t been criticized enough, naysayers really had reason to balk at the three-year, $30 million deal with the designated hitter.
But there’s a reason Butler, affectionately known as “Country Breakfast”, was a fan favorite with the Kansas City Royals and started out that way with the Oakland Athletics. He had a 12 game hitting streak to start this season and he’s a proven power hitter with the fourth most hits among active players since 2009. He showed just what he is capable of this weekend, racking up four hits and three runs batted in. Billy Butler may have been underachieving, but he is prime for a breakout and it looks like it may just be happening at the right time for Oakland to salvage the season.