It had been nearly two weeks since Khris Davis started a game, and he hadn’t appeared at all in the team’s last six contests. He was batting .155 entering the day with just one homer, continuing a deep slump that began in early 2019.
But on Tuesday, we got a glimpse of the old Davis. The slugger belted a home run off Houston Astros ace Zack Greinke, and later added an RBI double right when Oakland needed some insurance, helping the A’s to a 4-2 victory in the opener of a doubleheader.
For the second straight day, Oakland scored early against Houston’s starter, all the more impressive considering this time it was Greinke. Davis homered in the 3rd inning for the first run of the game, and a further rally later in that frame produced another tally on an RBI single by Ramon Laureano.
Also for the second straight day, Oakland didn’t stop there. After the Astros tied things up in the 5th, the green and gold rose again for another rally that sealed the game without needing extra frames. In the 6th of this seven-inning doubleheader contest, Laureano set the table with a double, Robbie Grossman singled him in, and then Davis struck again to double home Grossman. As usual the A’s bullpen took care of the rest, this time after five serviceable innings from starter Frankie Montas.
It was everything you want to see from this A’s team. Consistent offense that begins early and keeps the pressure on throughout, with the ability to hit dingers but not needing to solely rely on them. Solid starting pitching that keeps them in the game, and a dominant bullpen to shorten the day in the final frames. Now they get to do it all again in the second half of the doubleheader, entering with a 5.5-game lead over the Astros in the AL West division.
Blast from the past
It says a lot when a small-budget team parks their highest-paid player on the bench. That’s how dire Khris Davis’ long-term struggles have become. But on Tuesday, he played like it was 2018.
Facing one of the toughest righties in the sport in Zack Greinke, Davis got to work right away with a homer in his first at-bat. It’s only his second of the year, a far cry from the 40+ he used to hit every summer, but it was the most impressive contact we’ve seen him make in a long time.
Just like riding a bike for KD pic.twitter.com/cEgDqXpNqm— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 8, 2020
There was nothing cheap about this one. It went 104.2 mph off the bat, and traveled a full 400 feet to the opposite field. He got all of it.
Davis struck out his next time up, but in the 6th he got a prime opportunity and ran with it. Oakland had already scored off Greinke in the inning to take a late lead, but they still had a runner on base and two out. Davis responded by smoking a double, once again to right field, which was enough to plate the runner for a final insurance run.
This was hit even harder than his homer, at 105.4 mph, though it didn’t have the launch angle to clear the fence. It’s one thing to see Davis pick up a couple of hits, but it’s a whole other level of encouragement to see him, well, absolutely khrush the ball twice.
Bob Melvin on Khris Davis: "This is the type of guy that can carry a team. Every game that he doesn't play hurts me some. To his credit, he's worked hard and feels really good about his swing right now."— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 9, 2020
He started again in the second game but went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. That still doesn’t take away from his afternoon performance, though, showing us a glimpse of what used to be and might someday be again.
Extra note: Davis is now 5-for-11 against Greinke in his career, with two homers and two doubles.
The Davis story was such a highlight that it’s hard to think about much else from this game. The rest of the lineup did chip in, with another half-dozen hits and a couple walks, and Robbie Grossman added a clutch RBI single of his own to drive home a runner from scoring position.
There was also some defense, courtesy of the newest member of the lineup. This grab robbed a 100 mph liner.
As for the pitching, Frankie Montas put up his best effort since his recent bout with back tightness. After allowing 18 runs over three starts, he kept Houston to just two in this game. There was some hard contact but not quite enough to be worried about, and he helped himself by issuing only one walk. He didn’t have any 1-2-3 frames, and there were often runners in scoring position against him, but he made it all the way until the 5th before allowing the big hit to turn any of them into actual runs — a two-run dinger by Michael Brantley.
Montas: 5 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 6 hits, 79 pitches (50 strikes)
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Montas’ appearance was one of the batters he faced in the Astros starting lineup — Josh Reddick, the very player the A’s traded for him in 2016, in a deal with the Dodgers. Reddick only played a couple months in L.A., but four years later Montas is a star in the Bay. The pair met twice on Tuesday, with Reddick notching a single and then grounding out the next time.
Jake Diekman pitched the 6th, and Liam Hendriks breezed through the 7th for the save in the abbreviated doubleheader contest.