Athletics

Why A's slugger Khris Davis' clutch hit vs. Twins was just what he needed

kd.jpg
NBC Sports California

Why A's slugger Khris Davis' clutch hit vs. Twins was just what he needed

A's slugger Khris Davis hasn't hit a home run in a month, but he has delivered for Oakland in each of its last two wins.

The night after notching two RBI singles, Davis drove home the tying and go-ahead runs in the A's 5-4 win against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night at Target Field. Oakland was down to its last out, but had two men on base after Minnesota closer Taylor Rogers hit Mark Canha with a slider and allowed a double to Ramón Laureano. 

"Most of all I think it was big for Khris because he's come up big in those situations so many times for us and if anybody needed a little bit of a spark, it would be Khris," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after the game.  "That was a huge hit."

In addition to a sudden lack of power, Davis has seen his batting average fall. The 31-year-old is slashing just .218/.299/.244 since June 19 -- a day after he hit his last home run. 

But Davis now has hits in each of his last four games, and all but two since the All-Star break. Only one has been of the extra-base variety -- a double in Thursday's series opener with the Twins -- yet Melvin thinks it's only a matter of time before Davis regains his power.

"My guess is he's going to hit another home run here at some point," Melvin joked. "When he does, he's going to be off to the races. But, we'll take a big hit right there which he's done many times for us. He's felt better in the last few days. That was big for him, and it was big for us."

[RELATED: Women of 'Baseball for All' offer optimism, empowerment]

Davis has two career home runs to his name at Target Field and will have a chance to add a third if he is in the lineup for Sunday's series finale in Minnesota. That would end a drought that pre-dates the start of the summer, and provide further proof that Davis is back on track. 

How A's Sheldon Neuse made smooth transition from third base to second

How A's Sheldon Neuse made smooth transition from third base to second

OAKLAND -- For just about his entire life, Sheldon Neuse has played on the left side of the infield.

Neuse played shortstop and third base in college at the University of Oklahoma before moving to the hot corner full-time as a professional. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have much of a path to the majors at third base, with some guy named Matt Chapman already occupying the position.

So after spending the entire Triple-A season at third base, Neuse moved over to second just last month. Since earning a major league call-up on August 29, he has played the position flawlessly, recording a perfect fielding percentage through 91 innings.

"I'm feeling better every day," Neuse told NBC Sports California. "I played there for about a week and a half before coming up (to the majors), but last spring training and this spring training, I've done a bunch of work there. Throughout this year, even though I played third a lot in Vegas, I still moved over and took my reps at other positions. Every day, I'm out there taking groundballs now to just try to get better. Right now I feel good, but there's always something to improve on."

Neuse, 24, says his biggest challenge has been mastering the footwork on the right side of the infield, particularly when turning a double play.

"Everything's backward from the left side of the infield," he said. "Other than that, I think everything else is coming together. I'm getting more and more comfortable every day with the flips and things like that."

Neuse made a trio of outstanding defensive plays in the A's 12-3 win over the Rangers on Saturday night. In the fourth inning, he ranged up the middle to backhand a 107-mph scorcher off the bat of Nick Solak, showing off his strong arm with an accurate throw to first.

Then in the sixth, he fielded another 107-mph grounder to retire Willie Calhoun, followed by a 103-mph one-hopper off the bat of Delino DeShields. He also helped turn a 6-4-3 double play in the first.

"Extremely (impressive)," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "For a guy who's been, not only on the other side of the diamond, but mostly third base, it's a completely different look. Then you switch to second base for a short period of time and then you're called to the big leagues and asked to play that position. I don't know that there could be a smoother transition. ... He's worked really hard with these guys and it looks like it's a natural position for him."

Neuse's bat has started to heat up recently as well. On Saturday, he went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI, raising his average to .273.

[RELATED: McGwire reflects on A's Hall of Fame induction]

"Every game, I feel more comfortable -- getting in there and getting at-bats and just trying to make the most of my opportunities," Neuse said. "This is awesome. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you get. I think that just kind of comes with it. But I'm enjoying every moment of it."

The A's are certainly enjoying Neuse's play too.
 

Slugger Mark McGwire 'ecstatic' to be inducted into A's Hall of Fame

markmcgwireashalloffameusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Slugger Mark McGwire 'ecstatic' to be inducted into A's Hall of Fame

OAKLAND -- The A's officially inducted their second Hall of Fame class Saturday night in a pre-game ceremony on the Coliseum field.

It was a star-studded class, featuring Mark McGwire, Tony La Russa, Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, and Walter A. Haas Jr. For McGwire, it represented a long-awaited homecoming in Oakland, as he had to miss the 30th anniversary reunion of the 1989 World Series championship team earlier this year.

"I couldn't wait to tell my family," McGwire said of the honor. "Other than my son Matt, my family now wasn't here when this all existed. So this is the first time they get to see Oakland and Oakland rock."

McGwire did get to come to the Coliseum last season as a member of the San Diego Padres coaching staff, but this was different. When he found out he had earned the team's Hall of Fame honor, he was deeply moved.

"I was like, 'Wow, that's really cool,'" McGwire said. "It just catches you off guard. I saw what happened last year and I was like, 'Oh they're starting to do something like that.' I didn't know if I'd get a call this year or whenever, but I was ecstatic."

McGwire still cherishes the memories of his time in Oakland, where he spent 12 seasons and made nine All-Star Games.

"We had some great runs here," McGwire said. "I played with many Hall of Fame players, stud athletes, and the third-winningest (manager) in MLB history (La Russa). I'm blessed. I'm truly blessed."

Of course, McGwire's career has been somewhat tainted by his use of performance-enhancing drugs, which has kept him out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While he hopes to someday be enshrined in Cooperstown, he says he doesn't think about it too much these days.

"I don't," McGwire said. "If I'm blessed to get that call someday, it'd be another great day."

[RELATED: The Lonely Island spoofs Bash Brothers]

In the meantime, McGwire has enjoyed watching this year's A's team and thinks they have what it takes to make a deep run in the postseason.

"We're tied with Boston for the third-most World Series wins with nine," he said. "Just watching the way the team is playing right now, I'd say they're playing very well at the right time. So they might be breaking that little tie with the Boston Red Sox."