NEW YORK –- The crack of the bat suggested immediately that Khris Davis’ seventh-inning blast was leaving the yard.
The fastball he sent into orbit off Yankees lefty Chasen Shreve on Thursday snapped a tie score and sent the A’s on their way to a 7-3 victory to clinch a three-game sweep in the Bronx.
Big for his team.
Bigger for Davis himself.
It’s one thing to struggle when a season begins, but it’s another to do so while breaking in with a new club. And to say the A’s new left fielder has struggled at the plate is an understatement.
But if the A’s, winners of five in a row, seem to have found their collective swagger, figure that Davis has acquired a little confidence of his own. After singling twice and driving in two runs Wednesday, his first-pitch rocket off Shreve gave him his first homer as an Athletic.
“Just to get the first one off my chest and not think about it is pretty exciting,” Davis said afterward.
[STIGLICH: A's 3B Valencia to hit DL with hamstring strain]
Coming off back-to-back 20-plus homer seasons with the Brewers, the assumption was that Davis might step right in and start tattooing American League pitching. Instead he got off to a .174 start with 20 strikeouts in his first 46 at-bats. When a hitter slips into that kind of slump, it seems like he steps to the plate with two strikes already on him. And Davis’ body language walking back to the dugout told the story.
“The hardest thing to do in this game is when you get off to a slow start,” said teammate Chris Coghlan, “… because you’ve got to look at the scoreboard every day. (But) you’ve got to keep that perspective of how long of a season it is. You don’t press.”
If it’s tough for Davis to have struggled in his new surroundings, it can’t be the easiest thing for a coach trying to help a new player either. A’s hitting coach Darren Bush is still learning about Davis as a player, what makes him tick, how to tap into his abilities.
Davis has been putting lots of extra time in at the batting cage, and Bush has been impressed with how the outfielder has handled the rocky times.
“We talk,” Bush said after Thursday’s game. “A guy like Khris, he’s had success. So you’re just trying to add to it. Not trying to change anything, trying to add to what he’s already done. And so we just talk, talk about approach, talk about staying positive, talk about the little things.”
History shows that it’s not uncommon for the 28-year-old Davis to come out of the gate slow. He’s a career .225 hitter in March and April (regular season games only), and his 81 career strikeouts in March/April are by far his most of any month(s).
Asked how tough it is to struggle while breaking in with a new team, Davis responded:
“I don’t know. I haven’t been on the other side where I’ve started off hot.”
One thing he said he’s looking to do right now is be aggressive early in the count. He jumped on a 91 mile-per-hour fastball from Shreve to open the seventh.
“I’m not taking pitches right now,” Davis said. “You can’t get hot just looking at pitches. I was going up there being aggressive and got him.”
The A’s, after sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx for the first time since June 2006, are brimming with confidence. They’re off to a 6-0 road start for the third time in Oakland history as they move on to Toronto for a three-game series with the Blue Jays.
But getting Davis rolling from an individual standpoint would be a big boost for the bottom half of the batting order.
“I’ve seen him enough (with) Milwaukee,” Coghlan said. “I’ve seen him where he’s had a rough series, but then I’ve seen him the next series when he hits four bombs in three games. To see him start to barrel those balls up, for me watching as a teammate I’m just really happy for him.”