OAKLAND — As the trade deadline nears, the Oakland Athletics are getting an infusion of talent, and they haven’t had to give up anything to get it.
While Oakland had long figured that ace Sean Manaea (shoulder) and young arms Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk (Tommy John) would be healthy enough for the stretch run, and while Billy Beane and David Forst have a history of deadline deals, arguably the biggest acquisitions could be Khris Davis and Blake Treinen.
Davis — the most prolific home run hitter in the Major Leagues over the past three seasons — and Treinen — a 2018 All-Star who posted a historic 0.74 ERA a year ago — both endured horrific slumps over the first four months of the season. Over the last two games — coincidentally, both walk-off wins — they looked like their old selves.
“The way we’ve been playing, if we can get Treinen and KD back to where they were, we’ve been holding down the fort — the other guys have,” manager Bob Melvin said after Sunday’s walk-off walk against the Texas Rangers. “My feeling is, we’ll get these guys back right pretty soon, and they’re going to be big payoffs for us.”
Treinen’s and Davis’ return to form comes at the perfect time. In a tight race for the second wild card, Oakland has now won four of its last seven. Both Treinen and Davis played major roles in each of the last two.
In that Sunday win — capped by a Davis walk in the ninth — Davis went 1-for-3 with two free passes. On Tuesday, he went 3-for-4 with a 103-mph double in the sixth and a 103-mph go-ahead home run in the eighth.
“I’m glad we’re winning tight ballgames,” Davis said. “That’s kind of my job. I don’t always have to hit home runs.”
In the past three years, Davis had hit a home run every 12.8 at-bats. Though he hit .247 each of those years, he slugged .534 with an OPS+ of 130 and drove in 335 runs. He went a career-long 29 games without a home run. His longest drought before this season was 20 games.
Before Sunday, he’d hit just .133 since the start of July, and was hitting just .223 on the season with 16 home runs in 88 games — one every 25 at-bats — and a season-long slugging percentage of .390.
“He obviously had a stretch where he hasn’t done normal Khris Davis stuff,” said Tuesday starter Chris Bassitt. “For how many times he’s come to the yard, he hasn’t given up one bit. Seeing him do what he can do, hopefully this is kind of the tip of the iceberg so to speak, where you can kind of trade for Khris Davis without trading anybody away.”
Treinen — who earned his first All-Star nod with 38 saves and 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings — couldn’t find his command for the first four months of the 2019 season. He hadn’t lost velocity (just 0.8 mph on his fastball from a year ago), he wasn’t having issues with stuff and he wasn’t throwing through his sink — he just couldn’t find a way to dominate. He’d struck out 40 men in 42 innings, but walked 28 men — eight more than he did all of last season.
“Obviously, this year hasn’t been ideal,” Trenen said on Tuesday.
After giving up three earned runs on two hits and two walks against Tampa Bay on June 20, he was placed on the injured list with a shoulder strain and lost his closer spot to Liam Hendriks.
“[Pitching coach] Scott Emerson and I and a couple of guys on the team, we’ve been talking about some small cues to try and get things to be more consistent,” Treinen said. “A lot of it’s just been that I have zero pain in my arm. That’s huge.”
He’s fanned four and walked one in his last two innings of work, and over his last 5 1/3 innings in six appearances, he hasn’t allowed a run, holding batters to only three hits.
“These last two outings have definitely felt better,” Treinen said. “… I think it was just a minor tweak, mechanically, and it’s allowed for a lot more free and easy command … The biggest thing is getting my body in position to execute pitches on a consistent basis. That’s really what’s been my issue this year.”
On Tuesday, he needed just 11 pitches to retire the Milwaukee Brewers in order, throwing three cutters, four sliders, three sinkers and one four-seam fastball, getting three swinging strikes and three called strikes. He finished his outing by striking out reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich on a wipeout slider down.
“I don’t believe last year was a fluke. I don’t believe the success that I’ve had in the past is a fluke,” Treinen said. “This year, obviously, the numbers are different, but I feel like I can go out there and get any hitter out at any point, and if I need a big strikeout, these last few outings, it’s been great, because I’ve been able to commandmy slider, throwing my slider more, and still mixing in the four-seamer.
“Commanding all four pitches in the zone is what’s allowed me to have success the last few outings.”