WIth each team hitting three long balls in the homer-happy opener on a 91-degree afternoon at Dodger Stadium, Davis looms as an important X-factor going forward, as he now has two home runs in three postseason games after totaling just two in the regular season.
Davis, who led the Majors in home runs from 2016-18, gave the A’s a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Monday with a two-run blast off Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr., and he followed that with a sharp single to right in the fourth in a 2-for-4 day.
“He’s back,” said A’s starter Chris Bassitt. “We’ve been saying it in the clubhouse. We’ve been saying it, obviously, the last couple games. He’s been really showing up for us. The whole season he’s been grinding to get back, but for the last month, we’re like, ‘Man, you’re truly back.’ I think the world is kind of catching on now that he truly is back to his normal form.”
Davis’ punch is critical for a team looking to make up for the loss of standout third baseman Matt Chapman, who hit 36 home runs a year ago for a team that finished fourth in the AL with 257 in 162 games. This year, the A’s finished ninth in the AL with 71 homers in 60 games, and Davis gradually wound up being relegated to a platoon at designated hitter against left-handed starters, batting .200 with 10 RBIs in 30 games.
But manager Bob Melvin has liked what he’s seen from the 32-year-old in recent days, and he had him in the lineup for Game 1 even against the right-handed McCullers, a move that paid quick dividends.
With lefty Framber Valdez starting Game 2, Davis will be in the lineup again on Tuesday. But Melvin sounds like he’s ready to pencil in Davis on a regular basis now.
“He’s been doing his best work here, recently,” Melvin said. “He gave us a nice early lead that we felt good about, especially with Bass on the mound. He’ll continue to get at-bats, as he should, because he’s swinging the bat really well and it’s the postseason, and this is a guy that has done a lot of damage over the course of his career here.”
Davis hit a solo homer in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series against the White Sox on Wednesday, and he went 2-for-8 in that series. Of his five career postseason hits in 20 at-bats, three have been home runs, and he became the first A's player with multiple home runs in a single postseason since Brandon Moss had two in the 2014 AL Wild Card Game.
Davis is also the first to homer in multiple postseason games for the A's in a single year since 2006, when Milton Bradley and Eric Chavez each did so.
Davis led the Majors with 48 homers in 2018, but he dropped to 23 last year after running into the outfield wall and injuring his left hip. But there’s no question what the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder can do when he’s right, and the A’s believe he’s on the right track again.
“K.D. can do things that not everybody can do,” said first baseman Matt Olson, who along with catcher Sean Murphy hit the A’s other home runs. “You saw it today. That home run to right field, he’s got the most right-field juice of any righty that I've seen. For him to hit some balls like that and he hit the ball well last series, it’s good to get his confidence going. We’ve got a lot of baseball left.”