Khris Davis hasn’t hit a home run in 22 games. His average since his last roundtripper on June 19: A paltry .218.
Since he was moved down in the lineup — at his request — he now has hits in each of his last four games, and on Sunday, he provided the difference in the A’s 5-4 comeback win over the Minnesota Twins.
Trailing the AL Central-leading Twins by one with their lock-down closer Taylor Rogers on the mound and two outs in the ninth, Mark Canha took a hit-by-pitch, the red-hot Ramon Laureano doubled to left and Davis smoked a 105-mph liner against the shift, just off the tip of first baseman Ehire Adrianza’s glove and into shallow right. Both runners scored, fueling Oakland’s 21st win in its last 27 games, once closer Liam Hendriks escaped a bases-loaded ninth with a double-play grounder by Mitch Garver.
“Overall, probably the best win of the year,” A’s starter Brett Anderson told reporters.
The A’s (57-42) are now tied with the Cleveland Indians for the first American League wild card spot, meaning that what’s been an entertaining season series with the Twins — 4-2 in Oakland’s favor — could very well extend into October. Saturday’s edition was an enticing preview, and a load off of Davis, who has now driven in the eventual winning runs in each of the two Oakland wins in the three-game series.
“Relief,” Davis said of his reaction to the hit. “Then I see Ramon hustling around third and I was like ‘dang he’s fast.’”
Twins starter Jose Berrios — owner of a 2.32 home ERA before play began — threw 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball, but also threw 113 pitches, and gave way early to a Twins bullpen with the sixth-best ERA in the American League (4.26).
Meanwhile, the A’s sinkerballing starter Anderson allowed a pair of rare homers in the first — a 410-foot shot by Garver and then a 436-foot rocket by Nelson Cruz — before retiring 14 straight. That gave the A’s their opening, and in the seventh, Mark Canha sent his 16th homer of the year into the seats — a two-run shot to drive in Marcus Semien — tying things at 2-2. Laureano hit his 20th home run of the season — and 12th since June 12 — to give Oakland the edge. Laureano now has 30 RBIs in the last 31 games.
“I think Ramón’s the hottest hitter on the planet,” Anderson said.
In the bottom of the frame, though, Anderson — who ripped a fingernail and eventually couldn’t throw his fastball or sinker for strikes — hung a breaker to Miguel Sano, who blasted the game-tying shot 443 feet. Anderson had given up more than one home run just once this year, and his average of 0.91 homers per nine innings before play began was eighth-best in the league.
“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to tell I could only throw a breaking ball for a strike there that last inning,” Anderson told reporters. “I didn’t want to walk [Sanó]. I threw it middle and he deposited it. That and the pitch to Garver were really the only mistakes.”
A sacrifice fly by Jonathan Schoop put the Twins up 4-2.
The ninth-inning heroics were sparked by Laureano, whose two-out double made him 3-for-5 on the day. He’s now hitting .463 (25-for-54) since June 30, and is in the midst of a six-game hitting streak, during which he’s hit .583 (14-for-25) with three home runs and six doubles, allowing Davis to find his power stroke — a stroke that produced 133 homers from 2016 to 2018 — which manager Bob Melvin believes is coming.
“My guess is he’s going to hit another home run here at some point,” Melvin said jokingly. “When he does, he’s going to be off to the races. But, we’ll take a big hit right there which he’s done many times for us. He’s felt better in the last few days. That was big for him, and it was big for us.”
All of that would have been for naught, had Matt Chapman not returned to the lineup. After leaving Wednesday’s game in the third with left ankle soreness, the A’s Gold Glove third baseman returned for his first start, and after fouling a ball off his left knee and shin in his second at-bat, made nifty play on a grounder by Cruz in the eighth.
Chapman dove to his left and got up to make a bang-bang throw at first, saving a would-be double and keeping Anderson’s run intact.