Athletics

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

Khris Davis happy in Oakland, hopes to stay with A's long term

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Khris Davis happy in Oakland, hopes to stay with A's long term

For A's slugger Khris Davis, Oakland has felt like home from day one. And the numbers prove it.

Since the start of the 2016 season, when Davis was traded to the Athletics by Milwaukee, only Giancarlo Stanton has hit more home runs, in all of baseball.

Now in his third season wearing the green and gold, the 30-year-old Davis hopes to play in Oakland for years to come.

“I envision myself winning a championship in Oakland,” he said. “I think there's a lot of tradition here. It's got a rich history of championships. I feel like I could bring a championship to Oakland one day.”

It appears the A's would like to see Davis stay in Oakland as well. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the team has had talks with his agent, Lou Nero of Octagon Baseball, about a multi-year deal.

This season, Davis is earning a team-high $10.5 million. He is under arbitration control for next year, where he would likely get a raise to around $15 million. He is slated to become a free agent after the 2019 season.

While the A's tend to stay away from long-term contracts, it would make sense to re-sign Davis for at least a few years. He has been a powerful force in the lineup the last three seasons, and shows no signs of slowing down. After crushing 42 home runs in 2016, and 43 in 2017, Davis has a chance to make it three consecutive years with 40-plus homers and 100-plus runs batted in.

“Certain guys make their teammates better, and Khris Davis is that guy for us,” said manager Bob Melvin. “He's a presence that the other team feels. He's always one swing away from a three-run homer. He just makes our lineup deeper and kind of takes the pressure off everybody else. He's been terrific since the day he got here.”

Davis has done his best to just focus on baseball, and leave the negotiations to his agent. But he has made it known that he loves playing in Oakland.

“I like the clubhouse,” he said. “We've got a great group of guys I like to be around, and just grow with them on a daily basis. I like where I'm at right now. Whatever happens, happens in the future. It's a business, but at the same time, I'm happy and I can't complain.”

“I know he's really comfortable here,” Melvin added. “There are certain places where guys just feel at home and comfortable, and this is the place for him.”

A's closer Blake Treinen pitches perfect inning in All-Star homecoming

A's closer Blake Treinen pitches perfect inning in All-Star homecoming

A's closer Blake Treinen last pitched at Nationals Park just over a year ago. 

On July 7, 2017, Treinen retired all three batters he faced in his last inning of action with the Washington Nationals, before being traded to Oakland.

375 days later, he did the same thing, this time as an All-Star. The NL All-Stars went three up, three down against Treinen in his Midsummer Classic debut.

Along the way, Treinen even received help from his A's teammate and fellow first-time All-Star, second baseman Jed Lowrie.

An All-Star combination. #RootedInOakland

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Thanks to his perfect sixth inning, 30-year-old reliever handed off a 2-1 lead to AL teammate Charlie Morton in the seventh inning. Morton relinquished the lead on a Trevor Story solo homer. 

Treinen pitched for the Nationals from 2014-17. Oakland traded Treinen, a 2011 seventh-round draft pick, to Washington as part of a three-team deal in 2013. Fans in D.C. gave him a warm welcome to his former home.