Oakland A's

Khris Davis, A's hope clutch homer can break him out of brutal slump

Khris Davis, A's hope clutch homer can break him out of brutal slump

OAKLAND -- For one at-bat Wednesday night -- one powerful swing -- Khris Davis looked like the Khris Davis of old.

With two outs in the second inning and a runner on first, the A's slugger blasted an opposite-field home run off of Yankees starter J.A. Happ, snapping an 0-for-17 skid. It was Davis' 18th home run of the season, but his first in three weeks and just his second in the last two months.

"He needed that," A's manager Bob Melvin admitted. "He's been grinding hard. He takes this pretty seriously."

It's been a nightmare season for Davis, or at least a nightmare four months. After signing a two-year contract extension back in April, the 31-year-old is hitting just .211 with eight home runs and 35 RBI.

Since joining the A's in 2016, Davis has never suffered this type of prolonged slump. He has recorded at least 40 home runs and 100 RBI in each of his first three seasons with the team, but this year he's stuck on 18 and 55.

"He's been so instrumental for this team, as consistent a power hitter as we've ever had around here," Melvin said. "It's weighing on him. It hurts."

Melvin has tried everything to get Davis back on track, from days off to moving down in the batting order. Nothing has worked.

Perhaps Wednesday's long ball can help Davis relax and get back on track.

[RELATED: A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees]

"He wants to hit in the middle of the order and he wants to do what he normally does, but everybody goes through some tough times," Melvin said. "I'm glad he hit a home run."

Even without Davis' typical production, the A's have managed to stay right in the AL wild-card race. If KD can get back anywhere near his potential, it could be enough to put Oakland over the top.

A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees

A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees

OAKLAND -- A.J. Puk's heart was practically pounding out of his jersey.

For two straight days, the A's 24-year-old rookie had been sitting anxiously in the bullpen, just waiting for his name to be called. That call finally came Wednesday night.

Puk made his highly-anticipated major league debut against the AL-leading New York Yankees, allowing a walk and a single in 1/3 of an inning, but keeping the Bronx Bombers off the scoreboard in a 6-4 A's victory.

"It was great to finally get the first one out of the way," Puk said after the game. "My heart was racing. I was trying my best to calm it down. ... It's the first one. I got it out of the way. Now, hopefully, it's smooth sailing."

A's manager Bob Melvin had warned us that he wasn't afraid to use Puk in a big spot, and he lived up to his word. The 6-foot-7 left-hander entered the game in the eighth inning, protecting a slim two-run lead.

"That's a tough spot, coming in against the Yankees for his first appearance in the eighth inning of a two-run game," Melvin said. "Maybe a little bit of nerves on the first walk. ... We got the first out of the way and look forward to seeing him out there again."

Puk received a boisterous reception from the Coliseum crowd, both as he entered the game and then again when he left.

"I definitely heard it, he said. "It's a special moment. My family was in town. They were able to see me throw in the major leagues for the first time. It was good all around."

Added Melvin: "Usually I don't really take too much notice of the applause for someone coming into the game, but it was pretty significant. You couldn't help but notice that."

Puk exited with runners on the corners and just one out. That's when Melvin turned to his All-Star closer Liam Hendriks for a tenuous five-out save. The right-hander responded by striking out DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge to get out of the eighth and then retiring the Yankees' third, fourth and fifth hitters in the ninth.

"That might've been his best outing of the year," Melvin said. "I didn't do him any favors -- LeMahieu and Judge in the eighth and then he has to go through the ninth. What he's meant to this team this year and the acceleration from his role where he was last year all the way until this year has just been amazing."

Judge's at-bat probably brought back memories of last year's Wild Card Game, in which the Yankees slugger blasted a two-run home run off of Hendriks. But on Wednesday, the Australian closer got his revenge, striking Judge out on a nasty slider low and away.

"When you're in the bullpen, you've got a short memory," Hendriks said. "I'm assuming they showed it (on television) while I was pitching, so that's always fun. It is what it is. Actually, I asked him earlier today, 'Hey, which one was hit harder, the one you hit off me or the one you hit off Soria yesterday?' He played the modest card and was like, 'Man, the wind was blowing out.' I'm like, 'It doesn't matter if the wind was blowing in, that ball was gone.'"

Hendriks let out a thunderous yell after the strikeout but quickly calmed himself down, remembering he still had to pitch the ninth inning.

"My biggest thing is I was trying to make sure that I wasn't too amped because once you scream and then have to go back out again, it's not always the best scenario," he said. "Luckily, I've been pretty good this year at being able to go out there, have my little bit of an emotional attack, then kind of relax and get into the dugout and joke around and take it off a little bit." 

Yankees vs. A's lineups: Oakland looks to continue dominance of lefties

Yankees vs. A's lineups: Oakland looks to continue dominance of lefties

OAKLAND -- The A's look to continue their success against left-handed pitching when they face Yankees southpaw J.A. Happ on Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

The Green and Gold are 21-10 against left-handed starters this season with an .820 OPS, currently the best mark in Oakland history. A's manager Bob Melvin has loaded up his lineup with right-handed bats, with only Matt Olson swinging from the left side.

Chad Pinder, Jurickson Profar and Josh Phegley all return to the lineup to give Oakland three more righties. Pinder will bat fifth, with Profar and Phegley hitting eight and ninth, respectively.

Happ has struggled this season for New York, going 10-7 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 24 starts. The 36-year-old has enjoyed success against Oakland, however, going 4-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 11 career outings, including nine starts.

[RELATED: Sabathia hosts Boys & Girls club kids at A's-Yankees game]

The A's will counter with ace right-hander Mike Fiers. The 34-year-old is 11-3 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 26 starts this year, winning his last nine decisions. In six career starts against the Yankees, Fiers is 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Yankees game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 7:07.

New York Yankees (83-44)

DJ LeMahieu, 1B
Aaron Judge, RF
Gary Sánchez, C
Gio Urshela, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Mike Tauchman, CF
Cameron Maybin, LF
Mike Ford, DH

J.A. Happ, LHP (10-7, 5.40 ERA)

Oakland A's (72-53)

Marcus Semien, SS
Matt Chapman, 3B
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, CF
Chad Pinder, LF
Stephen Piscotty, RF
Khris Davis, DH
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Josh Phegley, C

Mike Fiers, RHP (11-3, 3.46 ERA)