Athletics

Late home run hurts A's in loss to start road series vs. Angels

Late home run hurts A's in loss to start road series vs. Angels

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM -- Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton hit two-run homers, Albert Pujols reached another milestone and the Los Angeles Angels rallied from an early deficit to beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Friday night.

With a single in the sixth inning, Pujols recorded his 1,000th career hit with the Angels. He became just the ninth player all-time with at least 1,000 hits in each league after getting 2,073 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Four former Angels are on the list: Dave Winfield, Frank Robinson, Vladimir Guerrero and Orlando Cabrera.

The Angels trailed 3-0 just four batters into the game. Starter Felix Pena regained his composure and gave up just two more hits and no runs while pitching into the sixth inning. Los Angeles improved to 8-1 over its last nine home games.

Matt Chapman and Khris Davis each hit home runs in the first inning for the A's, who are now 13-6 since the All-Star break. Chapman hit his 16th homer while Davis' two-run shot was his 33rd.

Calhoun connected for a two-run drive in the third, his 16th of the season and 11th over his last 25 games. Calhoun's 15 home runs since June 18 lead the American League.

Calhoun had just one home run and was batting .145 over 50 games when he went to the 10-day disabled list with a strained right oblique. In the 44 games since he has returned, he has hit 14 of his 15 home runs, with 34 runs scored and 35 RBIs.

Upton hit a go-ahead homer in the sixth off Lou Trivino (8-2).

Jim Johnson (4-2) retired the only batter he faced for the win. The Angels used three more pitchers in the ninth, with Blake Parker getting the final out for his 11th save.

Fernando Rodney made his A's debut, striking out a batter during a perfect seventh inning. Rodney was acquired Thursday in a trade from the Minnesota Twins.

RODNEY ARRIVES

A's manager Bob Melvin says Rodney doesn't have a set role. Instead, Melvin expects to mix and match his late-inning relievers in a stacked Oakland bullpen.

"More than anything, it probably allows us to not overuse a Lou Trivino, to not overuse a Yusmeiro Petit," Melvin said. "As much as we use our bullpen on certain days, we're not afraid to move guys to the back end of the bullpen if a (Blake) Treinen or (Jeurys) Familia needs time off, so it just makes us better."

Rodney had 25 saves for the Twins in 46 appearances with a 3.09 ERA, but the closer job will still belong to Treinen.

VLAD THE HALL OF FAMER

The Angels honored new Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero with an on-field pregame ceremony that pushed back first pitch about a half hour. Guerrero, who made quick introductory speech at Cooperstown last month, was even quicker when he spoke to the crowd in both English and Spanish on Friday.

"His forte is to not go up there and spew accolades about himself, and I think it makes him all the more special," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was so beloved by his teammates because when he was playing, he was the best player on the planet but . never talking about himself. He was a special talent."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Angels: Mike Trout was put on the 10-day disabled list with an inflamed right wrist. Scioscia expects his All-Star center fielder to return on Thursday when his DL stint ends. .

UP NEXT

A's: RHP Edwin Jackson (3-2, 2.87 ERA) will take the mound Saturday in the middle game of the series, carrying the sixth lowest ERA in the American League since his contract was selected June 25.

Angels: RHP Tyler Skaggs (8-7, 3.34) is expected to make his return from the disabled list Saturday, having not pitched since July 31 because of a left adductor strain.

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

OAKLAND – Frankie Montas has always had the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher at the major league level. Now, at the age of 26, he's converting that potential into reality.

Montas spun 6 1/3 sparkling innings Wednesday night, limiting the red-hot Astros to a single run on just three hits, with six strikeouts. The talented right-hander improved to 3-1 as the A's snapped Houston's 10-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.

"You can see his confidence grow every time he goes out there," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "It's starting to be dominant stuff at times."

"I feel like I'm throwing more strikes and having more command of my fastball in and out of the zone," Montas added. "The splitter really helped me a lot too."

That splitter is a new addition to Montas' arsenal, a pitch he sort of stumbled upon this spring.

"Honestly, I kind of just started playing with it in spring training," he said. "I was not really serious about it, but I saw that I could throw it and get good results. I was just trying to get something else for hitters."

Melvin highlighted the importance of the new pitch.

"It's been the key," Melvin said. "It's a true third pitch. His slider was really good too. Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between the slider and the split. But a mix of pitches like that...he's a tough guy to hit when he's ahead in the count and feeling pretty good."

In four starts this season, Montas has allowed a total of seven earned runs in 23 1/3 innings for an ERA of 2.70. His 0.94 WHIP ranks first among A's starters as does his .190 opponents' batting average.

This is the pitcher the A's were hoping to someday see when they acquired him from the Dodgers in 2016. Early in his career, Montas suffered injury setbacks to his knee and later his ribs, but the ability never went away.

[RELATED: A's place Estrada on IL]

"There was a point in his career where he was on the path to do this," Melvin said. "The injuries sidelined him a little bit and he ended up being a reliever. He got humbled a little bit in relief and had to find a different way to do it, and he did. We saw it all spring and we've seen it all season."

Now fully healthy and brimming with confidence, Montas appears ready to fulfill his destiny as a big-league ace.
 

How A's Khris Davis changed batting stance to become MLB's best slugger

How A's Khris Davis changed batting stance to become MLB's best slugger

OAKLAND – If you've been watching Khris Davis since his time in Milwaukee, you probably noticed a pretty drastic change in his batting stance after he joined the A's.

Davis stands much more upright now and keeps his hands significantly lower than his stint with the Brewers. He says the adjustment was inspired by a Hall of Famer.

"I think I stand a little more like Griffey now," Davis told NBC Sports California, referencing former Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr. "That's what I thought in my head when I made the adjustment. You can see my hands are a little lower. My rhythm is a little different. Whenever I made that adjustment, it clicked right away and I haven't changed much since then."

Davis was already a pretty good power hitter in Milwaukee, belting 49 home runs between 2014 and 2015. But he took it to another level in Oakland, crushing 42 homers in 2016, 43 in 2017 and 48 last season. This year, he leads the majors with 10 round-trippers through 20 games.

"I think the swing changed with the stance," Davis said. "When I had my hands higher, the doubles weren't home runs. Now, the doubles are home runs."

A comparison of Khris Davis' batting stances in Milwaukee (left) and Oakland (right). "You can see my hands are a little lower," Davis told NBC Sports California. 

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "I've seen video in the past and everybody makes adjustments from time to time over the course of their career. But what I know is what I've seen here, and it's been all pretty good. You don't need to make too many adjustments when you're hitting 40-plus home runs a year."

While Davis credits Griffey as the inspiration for his current stance and swing, NBC Sports California analyst Bip Roberts sees another former All-Star: longtime Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis (no relation).

"When we talk about throwing the bat head, Eric Davis was incredibly quick and so is Khris Davis," Roberts explained. "What they're doing is the old school way of hitting, and that's taking the bat head down to the baseball, down through it. And if they get a curveball, they can get under it because they have control of that bat head."

Davis notes that, while his current stance marks a significant change from his Brewers days, it's actually not completely new for him.

"In my head, I've done it throughout my whole life," he said. "The first time I did it when I was young, I hit a home run. That's just the one adjustment I could go to that's worked."

[RELATED: Davis dubbed 'the most interesting player in baseball']

Perhaps the most interesting element of the adjustment is that Davis made it on his own, without the input of A's hitting coach Darren Bush.

"No, that's completely me," Davis said. "Bushy helps me more with the mental side, how to slow the game down. The swing is the swing."

And the swing is effective. Since the start of the 2016 season, Davis leads the majors with 143 home runs.

"Different stances work for different guys," he suggested. "Whatever stance you feel comfortable in is what I recommend."