Davis' keen eye caps A's walk-off vs. Rangers
Slugger predicts: 'We're gonna go to the playoffs this year.'
OAKLAND -- The A’s have positioned themselves into playoff contention to this point despite Blake Treinen and Khris Davis, two integral pieces from last year’s run to the postseason, slumping for a large portion of the season. But signs of a resurgence emerged for both in Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Rangers.
Trailing by one run entering the ninth, Davis capped off a rally by working a full count against Rangers reliever José Leclerc before laying off a fastball up in the zone to draw a bases-loaded walk that brought home Marcus Semien to secure the walk-off victory.
Davis’ walk came after Mark Canha was walked intentionally to load the bases for the A’s slugger with one out. Matt Olson tied the game earlier in the ninth with a single to right off Leclerc that scored Chris Herrmann from second base.
“I didn’t want to try to get too big and hit a home run,” Davis said. “Something small would have helped. At that point, with the game on the line, just try to get the job done.”
Going through his longest stretch of games without a home run over a single season, which now sits at 29 games after Sunday’s win, Davis, who is 19-for-104 over that period, has been looking for anything to get himself going again. Perhaps just the elation of being responsible for ending the game is enough to kickstart the slugger who has crushed more home runs than any player in the Majors since the start of the 2016 season.
“You really want to be that guy and get the hit in the situation. But you know you have to be patient with a guy on the mound that can walk some guys,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He saw it well enough to see it was a ball in that situation, and that’s as good as a hit, as good as a homer, gives us a win.”
Davis drew the key walk, but the A’s were in that position entering the inning thanks to a vintage performance from Treinen in the top half.
Command issues have plagued Treinen as he’s struggled to find his 2018 All-Star form. The right-hander entered the day having already issued 28 walks over 38 games after allowing only 21 in 68 games last season. Tasked with keeping the deficit at one run in the ninth, Treinen pounded the zone throughout the inning. Despite walking one batter, he threw strikes on 17 of his 23 pitches, generating six swing-and-misses with two strikeouts for a clean inning.
“Mentally, that was huge for him,” Melvin said. “You could see the sinker, the velocity played up as the inning went along. He found his cutter again. Threw some good sliders inside and outside. We’ve been looking for a springboard for him and hopefully that was it today.”
For a bullpen that has struggled to hold leads late in games, including Sunday as Liam Hendriks was charged with a blown save after he and Joakim Soria failed to make a two-run lead stick in the eighth, the A’s are searching for ways to solidify what has been their only real weakness.
Oakland’s 20 blown saves are most by a bullpen in the American League and tied for second-most in the Majors, and the club has already made a move to address the issues by trading for Royals left-hander Jake Diekman on Saturday, but getting Treinen back to his dominant ways would almost serve as the equivalent to adding an extra big arm at the Trade Deadline.
“The way we’ve been playing, the guys have been holding down the fort,” Melvin said. “But if we can get Treinen and KD back to where they were -- and my feeling is we’ll get these guys right pretty soon -- they’ll be big payoffs for us.”
The win temporarily moves the A’s into sole possession of the second American League Wild Card with Boston playing later in the day. In what figures to be a battle to the end between three or four clubs for just two playoff spots, Davis has no doubts about where the A’s will finish.
“Winning close ballgames like today tells you a lot about teams,” Davis said. “I like where we’re at. We’re gonna go to the playoffs this year.”
Phegley leaves with injury
Dealing with discomfort on his left thumb that began in the second inning, A’s catcher Josh Phegley was lifted for Herrmann in the fifth with what the A’s described as a left thumb contusion. X-rays after the game revealed no major injury, but Melvin was unsure if the issue would require a stint on the injured list.
“He’s day-to-day,” Melvin said. “He tried to play with it but just didn’t feel like he could do his job back there.”
The A’s were on red alert in the ninth after Herrmann took a foul ball off his right knee cap that left him numb for a few minutes. With Phegley out of the game, Chad Pinder, who was playing right field at the time, would have been the likely emergency catcher.
With Nick Hundley released by the club Sunday morning, Beau Taylor is the only other catcher currently on the A’s 40-man roster.