OAKLAND — This was not a familiar situation for Khris Davis. The A’s slugger is used to getting intentionally walked, not intentionally faced.
But that’s where the slumping Davis found himself Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum, with the game on the line. Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward elected to intentionally walk Mark Canha to load the bases for the reigning home run champion in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game.
Woodward’s decision actually made a lot of sense. Davis had gone 1-for-23 in his previous six games, with 11 strikeouts. He had completely lost his confidence and desperately needed a moment like this to help get back on track.
“Just get the job done, not try to get too big and hit a home run,” Davis said of his approach. “Something small would help at that point with the game on the line — just trying to get the job done.”
Davis worked the count full against Rangers reliever José Leclerc, before laying off a high fastball for ball four. He jogged to first base, where he was mobbed by his teammates as Marcus Semien came into score the game-winning run on a walk-off walk.
The A’s win on a walk-off walk 👏 pic.twitter.com/286gwUHYGD
— A’s on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 28, 2019
“You really want to be that guy and get the hit in that situation, but you know you have to be patient,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He saw it well enough to see it was a ball in that situation. That’s as good as a hit. It’s as good as a homer. It gives us a win, so it was a key at-bat, obviously.”
It was the seventh career walk-off RBI for Davis, who finished the game 1-for-3 with a single and two walks. Just as importantly, he didn’t strike out, a huge step in the right direction.
“I’m just taking it day by day,” Davis said. “I’m gonna enjoy this day because we got the win.”
“The way we’ve been playing, if we can get (Blake) Treinen and KD back to where they were — the other guys have been holding down the fort — but my feeling is we’ll get these guys back right pretty soon and they’re gonna be big payoffs for us,” Melvin said.
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Davis has never been a big talker — he prefers to let his bat speak for itself. But after Sunday’s win, he made a bold prediction.
“I like where we’re at,” he said. “We’re gonna go to the playoffs this year.”
OAKLAND — With Sunday marking the two-thirds point of the A’s season, this is the time of year when some starting pitchers start to hit a bit of a wall.
Fortunately for the A’s, reinforcements could soon be on the way. Left-hander Sean Manaea is expected to make his season debut in the next couple of weeks, while Marco Estrada and Jesús Luzardo could return in September. Oakland is also in the market to add another starting pitcher before Wednesday’s Trade Deadline.
As it stands now, the A’s rotation consists of Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, Chris Bassitt, Daniel Mengden, and Homer Bailey. Fiers has pitched the most innings of the group at 128 2/3, but the other four are also over 100 innings between the majors and minors.
“I think right now is the time where you start to curtail your workload,” said former A’s pitcher and NBC Sports California analyst Dallas Braden. “You really start to fine-tune how you’re going about your business in between your start days. So your rest and recovery are paramount right now. It’s not as much about what you’re doing on your side day. It’s about how you’re bouncing back from your heavy day of work — your game day — what’s your day after like?”
The A’s have an off-day on Monday, which will give the entire rotation an extra day of rest. In fact, Oakland has four of the next 15 days off. That should help the rotation stay fresh for the upcoming stretch.
“There’s definitely going to be some manipulation as far as days off, workload, weightlifting, things of that nature,” Braden said. “Right now, you want to make sure that you’re able to go out there and answer the bell every five days.”
Oakland’s starting pitching has performed much better than many baseball experts expected. Entering Sunday, A’s starters had combined for a 4.23 ERA, fifth-best in the American League. They also rank fourth with a .245 opponents’ batting average.
If the A’s rotation can continue that type of success, Oakland will have a great chance to reach the postseason for a second straight year.
After a pair of rough nights for Oakland’s offense, the A’s came alive Saturday night with five runs on four home runs, including a moon shot from the red-hot Ramon Laureano, who took his time exiting the box following the 413-foot homer.
Texas Rangers relief pitcher Rafael Montero didn’t take kindly to Laureano’s admiration of the home run — and hit him with a fastball in the eighth inning — prompting both benches to empty. Both Montero and Rangers manager Chris Woodward were ejected following the scrum.
The Rangers did make a comeback effort that fell just short as the A’s hung on for a 5-4 victory. Liam Hendriks came in for Oakland in the ninth and closed the door, allowing just one hit before notching his ninth save of the season.
Laureano will get a scheduled day off Sunday, as Mark Canha will slide over and play center field while Robbie Grossman and Chad Pinder will man right and left field, respectively. The A’s will send Mike Fiers to the mound, as the veteran enters Sunday with a 9-3 record and a 3.57 ERA in 22 starts. Texas will counter with Pedro Payano, who will be making his first start of the season. Payano has two relief appearances in 2019, going 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six innings pitched.
Here are the full lineups for the A’s-Rangers game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 1:07.
Texas Rangers (54-52)
Shin Soo-Choo, DH
Danny Santana, 1B
Elvis Andrus, SS
Nomar Mazara, RF
Willie Calhoun, LF
Rougned Odor, 2B
Asdrúbal Cabrera, 3B
Delino DeShields, CF
Tim Federowicz, C
Pedro Payano, RHP (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Oakland A’s (59-47)
Marcus Semien, SS
Matt Chapman, 3B
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, CF
Khris Davis, DH
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Chad Pinder, RF
Robbie Grossman, LF
Josh Phegley, C
Mike Fiers, RHP (9-3, 3.57 ERA)