By Alex Hall
Special to S.F. Examiner
OAKLAND — Oakland Athletics designated hitter Khris Davis already had the most home runs in the majors entering Friday, but he extended that lead in a big way against the Minnesota Twins. Davis opened the evening’s scoring with a two-run blast in the first inning, and he finished it with a walk-off dinger in the 10th, leading the Oakland Athletics to a 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
“It’s pretty dramatic, how he started the game and ended the game, the numbers overall,” said manager Bob Melvin. “He’s as good a power hitter as anyone in the game. And the effect of this ballpark, not too many guys are hitting ’em out like that, especially the opposite way. It’s one-of-a-kind power.”
Davis now has 45 long balls on the season, which is a new career high. He also moves into fourth place in Oakland A’s history — behind Mark McGwire’s single-season record of 52 in 1996 — and sixth place in franchise history, after Jimmie Foxx’s 58 from 1932 back in Philadelphia. After Davis’ game-winning drive, chants of “M-V-P” filled the Coliseum.
“I was one of those (chanting),” said Melvin. “You look at his numbers and what he’s meant to this team, yeah, he definitely needs to be in the conversation.”
This was Davis’s second walk-off homer of the season, and the fourth of his career — all in an A’s uniform. As he approached home plate, he stopped to launch his helmet toward his teammates in the style of a basketball jump shot, one of his signature celebrations.
“Can’t explain it,” said Davis about the walk-off. “There’s not a better feeling in the world. I’m happy we got the job done.”
Not only does Davis lead the majors in homers this summer — by four over J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox — he also has the most since 2016 by a sizable margin. His total of 130 over the last three seasons is nine more than runner-up Giancarlo Stanton. As is characteristic for Davis, though, he’s not hung up on his impressive personal stats.
“It’s a number. I don’t keep score. I like to just play, and whatever comes, comes,” he said. “First and foremost, I want to get deep in the playoffs and get there. That means a lot more.”
After the A’s (93-61) got on the board early behind Davis’ first homer, they kept the pressure on Minnesota starter Jose Berrios and padded the lead over the next couple innings. Jonathan Lucroy drove in a run with a sac fly in the second and Marcus Semien did the same in the fourth, putting Oakland up 4-0.
The Twins, though, broke through in a big way in the sixth. Lou Trivino entered for relief and allowed a double, a homer, and two singles to the four batters he faced. Shawn Kelley followed and gave up a pair of run-scoring doubles to put Minnesota ahead, 6-4. It felt like deja vu, after the Angels had used a six-run sixth inning to beat the A’s on Tuesday.
In that game, Trivino gave up three earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning. He’s now given up eight earned runs in his last 2 2/3 innings over four outings.
Oakland wasted no time answering back this time, though. In the bottom of the sixth, Mark Canha entered as a pinch-hitter and drilled a two-run homer to left field to tie the game. It was his 17th of the season, which set a new career high.
“It felt really good,” said Canha. “I love those moments. I wasn’t thinking about hitting a home run, just trying to have a good at-bat. But when something like that happens, it just gets you going, gets your blood flowing a little bit. So it’s a lot of fun.”
It was Canha’s 13th homer of the season off of left-handed pitchers, which puts him second in the American League behind Joey Gallo of the Rangers. Although he appreciates the distinction, he doesn’t think there’s anything to read into his success against southpaws.
“The lefty-righty thing is kind of, I think, coincidental,” said Canha. “My rookie year I hit better off right-handers.”
It was also Canha’s second pinch-hit homer of the year. After spending much of the season as a starter, and at times a full everyday player, he has taken a more limited role lately in Oakland’s crowded lineup. He’s still found ways to contribute, though. Six of his last seven appearances have been off the bench, and over that span he’s 4-for-7 with a homer, two doubles, two walks, and six RBIs, while filling in at both left field and first base.
Melvin had plenty of praise to offer when asked how much Canha means to the team: “A lot. Plays multiple positions, knows how to come off the bench,” he said. “He’s ready for every situation. He’s a lefty killer. He’s a real weapon for us later on in the game.”
The 6-6 tie remained until the 10th, thanks to sparkling relief work by Ryan Buchter, Jeurys Familia, and Blake Treinen.
Oakland also found pitching success at the start of the game, using its bullpen opener strategy to produce five shutout innings. Liam Hendriks opened for the seventh time this month and worked his way out of an early jam, putting together a scoreless first inning for the seventh straight time. Chris Bassitt followed by throwing zeroes for four more frames — he faced 15 batters and allowed only three to reach base in his best outing since becoming a long man behind Hendriks.
The A’s magic number is now three to clinch the second Wild Card. The Tampa Bay Rays won their game, but still remain 6 1/2 games behind Oakland. The New York Yankees also won, so they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the A’s for the first Wild Card, but to its credit, Oakland holds the best record in the majors since the All-Star break and also since mid-June.
On this particular evening, though, the story was Davis, the best home run hitter in the sport.
“He’s our guy. I think we all felt on the bench that we was gonna do that,” said Canha of Davis’ walk-off. ”I’m at a loss for words. He does that, though. He does things that just leave you speechless.”