The Bottom Feeder: Davis, Cotton key A’s four-game sweep of the Yankees

June 18, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics

AP17169785386505

Oakland Athletics’ Khris Davis (2) is congratulated by Chad Pinder (18) after hitting a two-run home run against the New York Yankees during the third inning of a baseball game on Sunday, June 18, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND-On one of the hottest days on record at the Coliseum, it didn’t matter that Khris Davis had been swinging a cold bat.

The A’s home run leader took an 0 for 5 collar with four strikeouts on Saturday, dropping his batting average to .236 and boosting his strikeout total to an alarming 90 just 68 games into the season. Any big-league hitter knows that struggles to that degree can be mentally taxing.

But obviously not as taxing as facing an inexperienced pitcher who’s on the ropes is invigorating. With the Yankees’ early lead suddenly wiped out and starter Luis Cessa offering a 2-1 pitch with a runner aboard, Davis had his slump busting scenario in place.

Cessa’s mid-90’s fastball up in the zone made the Yankees’ rookie making only his second big-league appearance look as if he hadn’t consulted the scouting report on Davis.  The mighty mite slugger who uses his quick hands as much as his lower-body base to drive baseballs out of the park jumped on Cessa’s offering and deposited it beyond the centerfield wall just like that.

Davis’ team-leading 18th home run traveled an estimated 445 feet, and came just two batters after Chad Pinder erased the Yankees’ two-run lead with a double into the gap. Pinder taxed Cessa by fouling off four, consecutive pitches before finding one to his liking. The A’s entered the third with no hits.  They exited with four hits, and a 4-2 lead.

“The first two innings, (Cessa) was down in the zone,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He got some balls up and it led to some balls in the gap and the home run, and that was the difference.”

Jharel Cotton pitched into the seventh inning, and Sean Doolittle gained the save as the A’s held on for a 4-3 win, and a four-game sweep of the AL East-leading Yankees. The A’s entered the series off a disappointing road trip, but won three of the games against New York by one run.  One key was their season-long bugaboo of committing costly errors disappeared. The A’s had just two errors in the series, the second coming in the ninth inning on Sunday.

“That’s a great team on the other side, they’ve got a lot of power guys, and we just battled and battled,” outfielder Matt Joyce said. “It showed how relentless we can be.”

The A’s entered the series buried in the American League basement, and even after the sweep, are still in possession of the AL’s worst record.  But at 31-38, and still 15 games behind division-leading Houston, you get a sense the young-and-getting-younger A’s are building on something.

Manager Bob Melvin brushed off comparisons to the 2012 A’s, who also swept the Yankees on their way to earning a division title on the season’s final day. But he was quick to point out that for the team’s newest members–and likely their future core–this was an eye-opener and confidence builder.

“If you’re a Matt Chapman, a Chad Pinder, a Jaycob Brugman, guys that are just getting here, to know you can have a series like this gives you a lot of confidence, not only in yourself but as a team,” Melvin said.

NOTES: The first pitch temperature at the Coliseum was 90 degrees, the hottest such reading since 2008.

The A’s improved to 22-13 at home, giving them MLB’s biggest disparity between home and road results.  The A’s are only 9-25 on the road with a three-game series in Chicago against the White Sox starting Friday night as their next opportunity to improve their road numbers.

Reliever Santiago Casilla was hit by a batted ball in the shoulder during Saturday warmups, and despite declaring himself as unscathed and healthy, Melvin reiterated after the game that he had no plans to use Casilla in Sunday’s game.

 

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