The Athletics came into Saturday night’s game with a chance to play spoiler against the Wild Card-hopeful Texas Rangers. All it took was a solo home run.
Khris Davis smashed the first pitch of the second inning from Miguel Gonzalez (L, 8-12, 4.62 ERA) into center field for his 40th home run of 2017. With the homer, Davis became the second Athletic and first in the Oakland era to hit 40 home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Jimmie Foxx (1932-34).
A’s manager Bob Melvin said:
“We talked a little bit about it today. He says ‘I’m stuck on 39’ … He hits the first ball out to right-center field like nobody else can. That’s a nice little feather in his cap to do 40 again.”
Davis said it was “nice” to be mentioned in the same breath as a Hall of Famer like Foxx:
“I’m just enjoying it, embrace it as much as I can. Just trying to help the ball club win games.”
Davis’ homer was plenty for Raul Alcantara (W, 1-1, 6.86 ERA), who the A’s tabbed with the spot start after original starter Sean Manaea was scratched with upper back tightness. Alcantara’s third start of the year was easily his best, shutting down the Rangers for five innings, allowing only two hits and walking two while striking out five.
Melvin called Alcantara’s start “great:”
“He looks like a different guy … He’s pitching with a lot more confidence. It’s good to see.”
Alcantara, who made a spot start for Jharel Cotton earlier this week, said he went into the start like it was a relief appearance:
“Pitch inning to inning, not worry so much about the start. I had a little more time to build my mind around it, but just to go inning-by-inning was my focus.”
The A’s bullpen held just as strong as Alcantara, combining for four shutout innings. Ryan Dull struck out two in one-2/3 innings.
Dull gave way to Daniel Coulombe, coaxing a groundout from Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo. Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinan both contributed shutout innings, Treinan’s resulting in his 14th save in 19 chances.
Melvin said he knew the team would have to lean on the bullpen since they weren’t getting seven innings from Alcantara:
“We had enough guys ready and pitching well to get through it. [Dull] going out for the second inning was huge for us … As well as the rotation has been pitching recently, so has the bullpen.”
The A’s made headlines before Alcantara ever threw a pitch, however, when rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major leaguer to kneel during the National Anthem. Maxwell, born on a military base, tweeted Saturday morning:
Melvin said Maxwell talked to him, General manager Dave Kaval and the team prior to the game:
“He went through all the proper steps, he alerted everyone to what he was going to do.”
Melvin added that Maxwell held an open forum in the clubhouse for players to ask him questions.
Maxwell said he felt it was his time to act:
“My decision has been coming for a long time. I was on the fence about it because nobody in baseball has ever done it. It finally got to the point where I felt like the inequality of man is being discussed, it’s being practiced … The only way we can come together is by informing. I feel like it’s only right for us as players.”
The loss moves the Rangers to 76-78, four games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card with eight to play.
The A’s go into Sunday’s series finale attempting to finish their 2017 home schedule with a sweep. Jharel Cotton (8-10, 5.81 ERA) is scheduled to start against Texas’ Martin Perez (12-11, 4.70 ERA).
The A’s had a brief injury scare in the second inning. An errant fastball from Gonzalez hit A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, forcing Melvin and A’s trainer Nick Paparesta to meet Chapman at first to check on him. Chapman stayed in the game to run the bases and played the full nine innings. … Khris Davis’ home run gave him 103 RBI in 2017, besting his 2016 total of 102. 103 is a new career high for Davis. … The win is the sixth straight for the A’s and their 13th of 16. It also moved the A’s record against the Rangers this season to 8-6.