Athletics

Liam Hendriks appears to be rewarding A's decision to bring him back

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USATSI

Liam Hendriks appears to be rewarding A's decision to bring him back

While names like Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, and Joakim Soria get most of the headlines among A's relievers, Liam Hendriks is proving to be a valuable member of the bullpen this season.

The easy-going Australian has allowed just one run in his first nine innings of work, giving him the second-best ERA on the team behind only Treinen, the A's All-Star closer.

Hendriks, 30, signed a one-year, $2.15 million contract this offseason to return for his fourth season in Oakland. Not all A's fans were thrilled with the decision, as Hendriks struggled for much of last year, even getting designated for assignment in June. A week later, he was outrighted to Triple-A, where he spent most of the season.

But in the month of September, Hendriks was phenomenal. The right-hander pitched 13 innings for the A's, allowing just two runs on eight hits, with 10 strikeouts. He added about four mph on his fastball after recovering from hip surgery earlier in the year, throwing it consistently at 96 mph while also mixing in his slider.

That's been the formula once again this season and it has served Hendriks well. After allowing a run in the season opener in Tokyo, Hendriks has tossed eight consecutive scoreless innings.

Hendriks has provided the A's bullpen with crucial depth. Treinen, Trivino, Soria, and even J.B. Wendelken and Ryan Buchter tend to be Bob Melvin's preferred choices in the late innings, but Hendriks has proven reliable in the middle innings, or when those other arms need rest.

Hendriks is capable of pitching multiple innings, as he has shown throughout his career. He threw two scoreless frames against the Red Sox on April 4, closing out a 7-3 victory to give Treinen a day off. This past Tuesday, Hendriks pitched the final 1 2/3 innings in Baltimore.

Of course, we should note it's very early in the season and this is a limited sample size. But when combined with his performance last September, Hendriks has allowed just three runs in his last 22 innings for an ERA of 1.23. Not a bad weapon to have as your sixth reliever.

Khris Davis is feeling like himself again as he and A's pick up steam

Khris Davis is feeling like himself again as he and A's pick up steam

OAKLAND -- Khris Davis is finally starting to look like Khris Davis again.

The A's slugger struggled a bit in the immediate aftermath of his IL stint for a left hip/oblique contusion, batting just .182 (6-for-33) with no home runs and two RBI in his first eight games back. In the 10 games since, he's hit .268 (11-for-41) with four homers and 10 RBI.

"I feel like I've got a little bit of rhythm going," Davis told NBC Sports California. "There's always room for improvement, so I'm just going to keep working and hopefully it shows up."

Davis suffered the injury back on May 5 when he collided with the side wall in left field while making a catch in Pittsburgh. He tried to avoid going on the injured list, playing through the pain for a couple of weeks, but his swing clearly wasn't the same.

Now that the pain is gone, the swing is back.

"I feel normal," he said. "I feel like I can swing hard without any pain. That was a big part. I could swing before, but it was kind of painful. Now it's kind of just gone."

Perhaps most encouraging is the direction of Davis' hits the last few games. In true KD fashion, he blasted opposite-field home runs on Sunday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he ripped an RBI single to right-center, another great sign that he's feeling like himself.

[RELATED: A's focused on sustaining momentum after sweeping Orioles]

Despite hitting just two home runs between April 13 and June 8, Davis is tied for the team-lead with 16 on the season. That puts him on pace for 35, meaning a fourth consecutive 40-homer season is not out of the question.

A's need to maintain momentum following three-game sweep of Orioles

A's need to maintain momentum following three-game sweep of Orioles

OAKLAND -- After losing two of three to the last-place Mariners, the A's desperately needed to get back on track. Lucky for them, the Baltimore Orioles were coming to town.

Oakland finished off a three-game sweep of the league-worst Orioles with an 8-3 win Wednesday afternoon. For the series, the A's outscored the O's 27-7.

The question now is whether Oakland can build off this momentum and go on an extended run.

"We'd like to be able to sustain it," said manager Bob Melvin. "We had the one 10-game winning streak where everything was hitting on all cylinders and we were playing really well, and then we couldn't follow it up. We lost five in a row after that. So we have to sustain it."

To this point, it has been a roller coaster of a season for the Green and Gold. Every time the A's seem poised to push well past the .500 mark, they have stumbled.

"We're a team of runs so far this year, which is kind of weird," said Wednesday's starting pitcher Chris Bassitt. "I feel like we lose a couple and then win a whole bunch. We've just got to maintain this and maintain consistent work every single day -- don't really go to the extremes of pressing. We're a great team."

The A's have failed to climb more than four games over .500 all season, achieving that mark on May 27 with a record of 29-25. Now at 39-36, they'll have a chance to push past that hurdle with the Tampa Bay Rays visiting the Coliseum for a four-game weekend series.

"Just keep playing our game," said catcher Josh Phegley. "I think we put pressure on ourselves to do well sometimes and I felt like we just were comfortable this series and kind of trusted that our offense was going to be there. Our pitchers kept us in the game. They gave us some good starts. I feel like that's just kind of a confidence-builder."

Designated hitter Khris Davis agreed with Phegley's assessment.

"Absolutely. It gives us momentum and we want to hold onto that."

[RELATED: Chapman remains open to talk about long-term A's deal]

Of course, last season the A's went on a remarkable run right around this time, finishing the season 63-29 after starting 34-36. While that type of stretch will be difficult to repeat, the team knows it has that capability.

"We've been on some runs before with this group of guys, so I know they're looking forward to getting as many games over .500 as we can," Melvin said. "We have a really tough team coming in, and we've got them for four, so we're going to have to play well."