OAKLAND — Khris Davis had been struggling. Hitting more than 40 homers each of the last three seasons, he hadn’t hit a home run in 29 games, and since the All-Star break, was batting just .151.
Manager Bob Melvin put it simply in his pregame session with reporters: “We need him.”
The powerful Davis didn’t even need to swing the bat when he came up in the ninth inning on Sunday, drawing a six-pitch, based-loaded walk from Texas Rangers Jose LeClerc to give the A’s a 6-5 win. After the bullpen squandered Mike Fiers’ 13th straight quality start with their league-leading 20th blown save of the year, Davis’ walk-off walk gave the A’s a half-game lead for the second American League wild card.
“That whole game felt like a fistfight,” Melvin said.
After Oakland loaded the bases with one out, Davis took a rip at a 3-1, 81-mph slider. He’d hit a game-winning home run off LeClerc almost exactly a year ago (July 25, 2018), but patiently watched a 96-mph fastball up — usually catnip to a struggling power hitter — called a ball, earning his seventh career walk-off RBI in the A’s seventh walk-off win this season.
“I wasn’t trying to get too big and hit a home run,” Davis said. “Something small would have helped, and at that point, with the game on the line, [I’m] just trying to get the job done.”
Having hit .247 and averaged 44 home runs the last three seasons, Davis was batting just .223 with 16 homers in 88 games in 2019. Coming into Sunday, he’d hit .133 in 20 games this month, with 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 84 plate appearances. On Sunday, Davis reached base in three of his five trips to the plate, something Melvin felt could jump-start his bat.
The A’s had gotten ahead 1-0 in the third on Marcus Semien’s 17th homer of the year, but went 1-for-11 with runners aboard over the first five innings against rookie starter Pedro Payano. Fiers struck out six and allowed just four hits and two runs in six innings, but the two homers he gave up in the fifth — just the second time since April 20 that Fiers had given up more than one in a game — gave Texas the lead.
Chad Pinder broke the spell with a two-run double off the right field wall in the sixth, then rode home when a Robbie Grossman grounder skipped off Danny Santana’s glove at first, giving Oakland a 4-2 advantage. The bullpen gave that right back in the eighth.
Joakim Soria — owner of a 2.08 ERA since June 15 — gave up a pop fly single to Shin-Soo Choo and a double off the wall by Santana. After Matt Chapman made a Platinum Glove play to cut down Choo at the plate on a grounder by Elvis Andrus, closer Liam Hendriks came on and gave up a game-tying Nomar Mazara bleeder against the shift and a booming Willie Calhoun RBI double to center.
Hendriks induced a would-be inning-ending double play ball by Asdrubal Cabrera, but got a glove on it and slowed it down enough to allow the go-ahead run to score.
Chris Herrmann — who took over behind the plate in the sixth after Josh Phegley left with a left thumb contusion — led off the bottom of the ninth by serving a 1-2 single to left. Semien then worked an 0-2 count into a 10-pitch walk. The heart of the Oakland lineup — Chapman, Olson and Canha — was due up, but had gone just 2-for-10 in the previous eight innings.
Chapman finished an eight-pitch at-bat against Leclerc with a pop out, and Olson tied things up with a line-drive single up the middle. A walk to Canha loaded the bases for Davis.
The win broke Oakland out of a three-team tie for the second wild card spot. At 60-47, the A’s stayed ahead of Boston, which has won three games in a row. The A’s had lost six of 10 coming into Sunday.
“It’s huge,” Davis said. “Winning close ballgames tells you a lot about teams. Winning one-run ballgames, we got it done today. Oly with a huge AB, Marcus with a great day. I like where we’re at. We’re going to go to the playoffs this year.”