WASHINGTON — The positive vibes for the Oakland Athletics from Friday’s call up of top prospect Lawrence Butler dissipated somewhat hours later when the Washington Nationals handed the A’s an 8-2 defeat.
Oakland has lost seven of 10 and are a major league-worst 33-83. The A’s are on pace to finish 46-116.
There were chants of “sell the team” in the top of the fifth inning, a message directed at A’s owner John Fisher, who plans to move the franchise to Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Washington’s Ildemaro Vargas homered and drove in four runs, Keibert Ruiz went deep at home for the first time since May to help the Nationals win.
Butler, the A’s No. 5-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas and went 0 for 4 in his major league debut while playing right field and batting eighth as one of five rookies in Oakland’s starting lineup.
“That’s a special moment because as a kid you dream of this moment for your whole life,” Butler told reporters. “This is what you’re working towards. For this to come to fruition is kind of crazy.”
Oakland Athletics’ Lawrence Butler practices his swing before an at-bat during the second inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
Butler hit a ball to left field that was caught during his first Major League at-bat, which was a surreal moment for the Burlington, N.J. native.
made solid contact with a flyout on the sixth pitch of his first big league at-bat and reached base in the ninth using his speed down the line on a fielder’s choice.
“I’d say the first at-bat was probably the most butterflies,” Butler said. “But I was comfortable enough. I feel like I had a good at-bat … took some good pitches. (Washington pitcher Joan Adon) threw me a pretty good pitch, tried to foul it off, ended up popping it to left field, but that’s baseball.”
While Butler didn’t get a hit, A’s manager Mark Kotsay liked what he saw out of Butler, particularly when the rookie hustled to first base on a ninth-inning misplay by Washington’s Dominic Smith.
“The kid for his first time in the box, he took some good at-bats, took some good swings,” Kotsay said. “(He) hit the ball hard on the ground. The effort level in the ninth inning, a ground ball to first base when he beats it out because it’s kicked. That’s what we are looking for out of our guys, to keep grinding and to keep competing.”
The A’s made room on their 26-man roster by placing infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp on the paternity list.
It was just a matter of time for Butler to be in the big leagues. After he opened up eyes with a monstrous performance during spring training (he hit .478 with a 1.425 OPS in 12 spring games), Butler continued impressing A’s management during the minor league season. He has slashed .284/.350/.475 with 15 home runs, 70 RBIs and 21 stolen bases across 89 games in Triple-A and Double-A.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Butler was a sixth-round pick from Atlanta’s Westlake High School in 2018.
On Friday, Butler and his teammates were mostly quieted by Nationals pitchers as four relievers combined for six shutout innings after Adon left with an undisclosed injury. Adon halted his warmups before the fourth.
Cory Abbott (1-1) replaced Adon and earned his first big league win by allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings.
Ruiz’s fifth-inning homer off Paul Blackburn was his 13th this season but only his third at home and his first at Nationals Park since May 19. He lofted an elevated 91 mph sinker to right off Blackburn (2-3), who allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Vargas padded the lead with a three-run drive off Sam Long in the seventh, and Jake Alu homered off Long on the first pitch of the eighth.
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Adon, who allowed Jordan Diaz’s two-run single in the first, appeared to have discomfort in a leg while warming up before the fourth. Manager Dave Martinez and athletic trainer Paul Lessard were summoned and quickly decided Adon’s outing was over.
Washington tied it in the second on back-to-back RBI singles by Vargas and Stone Garrett, and went ahead on Alu’s sacrifice fly in the fourth.
C Carlos Pérez (thumb) caught five innings for Las Vegas on Thursday. … RHP Mason Miller (forearm tightness) will throw a live batting practice session today in Arizona. … 1B Ryan Noda (broken jaw) will taking batting practice today.