Athletics

A's Khris Davis confidence returns, closes chapter on down 2019 season

A's Khris Davis confidence returns, closes chapter on down 2019 season

Khris Davis arrived at Friday’s Zoom meeting with reporters with his short hair that he wore in spring training.

The few months that had gone by weren’t enough time to grow out the cornrows he usually wears, but the time away from baseball didn’t change his routine. 

The self-described homebody doesn’t go out, so despite being a little bored like the rest of us, Davis was fine. He played ping pong with a friend (socially distanced of course) and has two young children that keep him plenty busy. 

Davis also kept up with his workouts saying he, along with Ramón Laureano and Mark Canha would “get their swole on,” working out in Davis’ garage gym at home. He didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

That might be a good thing. He said he felt great.

“I feel healthy first and foremost, I feel excited to be back,” Davis said. “Been missing it.”

He mirrored the sentiments of the team saying the typical 162-game season will now turn into more of a sprint with 60-games rather than the marathon that they’re used to -- a joke Davis says the guys have been declaring. But one thing he was different on was not viewing some of the testing delays as a distraction.

The A’s, among other teams across the league, have faced setbacks in coronavirus testing results that have frustrated those involved and have concluded in teams having to cancel workouts.

“I don’t see all this distraction with the COVID testing and our routines being off so I'm just happy to be back really,” Davis said.

He certainly appeared happy -- an improved mentality from who he was last season.

"I think that was the one thing I took after last year is that I didn’t feel good physically a lot of the days, so I think that kind of held me down and I couldn’t overcome it," Davis said. "But I think as far as my confidence, I’ve just been trying to get in the best shape I can.”

Last year Davis had a hip injury when he made a play against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 5 when he made a catch in foul territory slamming hard into the railing with his left side. He also was hit in the left hand on another occasion. 

“I didn’t have a way to overcome that physical, mental balance, but it’s a new year and I’ve closed the chapter on that one,” he said.

That reunited confidence is also brought on by his teammates. Last season, Davis had what you would call a down year when he slashed .220/.293/.387 line while hitting 23 home runs which was coming off a league-leading 48-homer season in 2018. 

A’s manager Bob Melvin said during spring training (the first one) that despite the low numbers, the team was more than willing to step up and be successful -- something Melvin said Davis had done many times. Davis is glad knowing he doesn’t need to always be on his game with a team of that caliber behind him.

“This team is good enough where I don’t have to do all the work,” Davis said. “They proved it last year -- they don’t need me to go out and hit a home run every ball game.” 

They certainly did -- 97 times.

[RELATED: Piscotty believes cutouts benefitting ALS Cure moves the needle]

And they see it, too. As A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty told reporters on Saturday, Davis is back. 

“That spark coming off his bat is there again,” Piscotty said. “He’s really driving the ball well to right and right-center, which is something I remember him doing exceptionally well. It’s a good indicator that he’s right where he needs to be.” 

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

The A's are rolling.

Oakland has won six straight games as they welcome the rival Astros to the Coliseum for the first time since Houston's cheating scandal was unearthed in the offseason.

The A's (9-4) are coming off a sweep of the Rangers, while the Astros (6-6) lost two out of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Here's how you can watch the A's play the Rangers online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

Friday, Aug. 7

When: A's Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 6:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Saturday, Aug. 8

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Sunday, Aug. 9

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Austin Allen’s single to score Matt Chapman in the bottom of the 13th set the things up for Marcus Semien in the A’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Semien sealed the deal with a walk-off single to center field. Semien smiled celebrated with an ice bath from Tony Kemp. It was a much-need victory over the Astros for both Semien and the A's.

For Semien, the big hit was a long time coming. 

“For me, it’s trying to be on time,” Semien told reporters following the 13-inning game. “I’ve been struggling with my timing a little bit, so just being on time, and same thing with Austin. Like I said, that guy was getting guys to chase up, so anything that is hard and a little lower, just attack it. I put a lot of work in earlier in the day just trying to hit line drives to the opposite field and it’s a good feeling when it clicks because for a while it hadn’t been clicking.”

Semien wasn’t hitting the ball hard, he explained. And when that happens, there’s a reason for it.  

“My stroke feels good, but sometimes it’s approach, sometimes it’s timing -- body position, a lot of things that could be,” Semien added. “That’s what early work is for, cage work. Once you get in the game, you just have to compete.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Semien said he has to create habits that work.

“It’s tough because you think you have to tinker with everything,” Semien added.

Semien wasn’t sure what that tinkering would consist of: Would he need to work on his swing? Not necessarily. The timing was definitely a factor, but Semien also believes opposing teams were attacking him differently.

That seems to be the case when he leaves a third-place AL MVP season behind him in 2019.

“They’re being more careful, you saw that with Texas,” Semien said. “I’m trying to take the low pitches, sometimes they’re calling them, and you just find yourself in 0-for-3 like that. I think today was a good day to build off.”

“They know last year I put up some good numbers and you’re not getting as much to hit. You think that you’re just going to get the same pitches that they threw last year and that’s part of it, kind of created some bad habits early on. Even since spring and Summer Camp, just hadn’t really been driving the ball well.” 

Semien said he’s working on that every day. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

“Marcus, I think has set the tone and built the culture here,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt told reporters during his postgame availability. “Obviously I think [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson and those guys have caught on to just the work ethic that Semien brings every single day.”

[RELATED: A's fan creates GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner]

Bassitt himself had a good outing, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. That brings his total to just two earned runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings this season. But this wasn’t about him at the moment despite his solid outing in the 13-inning game. He wanted to give Semien his moment.

“It’s not a matter of when [Semien] walks up to the plate, but whenever he does, you know you are getting the best effort from him every single night,” Bassitt said. “Doesn’t matter what at-bat, what inning. Anytime he walks up with the game on the line, I’m extremely confident in him.”