Melvin Takes Great Delight in Being Able to Write Khris Davis Into Athletics' Lineup

After a season in which he's mostly been relegated to playing against left-handed pitchers, Khris Davis is in Thursday' Oakland Athletics lineup against a righty. It's been a long road back for Davis, who is a team favorite and who homered Wednesday.
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If there’s one thing the Oakland A’s 2020 season has taught us is that a slumping Khris Davis doesn’t start as the A’s DH against right-handed pitching.

It’s just been a tough year, a tough year and a half, really, dating back to a collision with a wall while playing defense, for Davis.

Now in Game 3 of the American League Wild Card, Davis is in the lineup with the Chicago White Sox starting right-hander Dane Dunning.

What gives?

Part of it is that the White Sox are having a “bullpen game,” beginning with Dunning but likely to throw four or five pitches to get through the game.

The fact is that Khris Davis is one of manager Bob Melvin’s favorite players. From 2016-18 Davis averaged 44 homers for the A’s and was the 2018 home run champ with 48. The oblique and rib injury suffered in Pittsburgh last May took away the free and easy motion of his swing and limited his power.

In a 60-game season this year, with Davis off to a slow start, the A’s felt they couldn’t wait for him to get better. So, he was related to playing against left-handed starters.

It was hard on Davis. It was hard on Melvin, too. A’s lineups are easier to put together when Davis’ rampant power is there in the middle of it all as the anchor.

“It’s nice to have KD in there,” Melvin said before Thursday’s Game 3. It’s nice he’s showing up really well, his best work. So, it’s a relief to put him in there – it’s hard not to put him in there. It bothers me when I can’t put him in there.

“There’s a human side of this whole thing, too. I have a great relationship with him and I love the man, so the days when he’s not in there are really hard.”

Melvin had to hold off making out a lineup until the White Sox announced a pitcher. But Davis, who had a good September in limited at-bats and who homered for the fifth run in a 5-3-win Wednesday, was a good bet to be in there, no matter what.

“I think he had a pretty good idea he was in there today,” Melvin said. “I’ll visit with him at some point. He had a real determined look in his eye yesterday, and I’m guessing again today.”

To a man, the A’s are Khris Davis fans.

“For us, he’s the same KD from 2018 and the previous years,” center fielder Ramon Laureano said. “That’s the KD we see every day. It’s a new season, a new page. We’ve already turned that page. Everybody’s in a new mindset. It’s all about winning right now.”

In the fourth inning Wednesday, when Davis homered for the fifth run, there was dancing in the dugout. And jumping. And screaming.

“For the last month, I know he hasn’t played much, but I promise you, the guys in the clubhouse are like, `Man, the explosion in your bat is back,” starting pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “I think he’s truly starting to believe it, too. He has worked his butt off to get back to where he was.”

It may be that Davis is finally able to put his 2019 injury behind him.

“Him running into the dang wall and messing with his oblique and upper rib cage affected him for quite some time,” Bassitt said. “The last month, his BP and his at-bats during games, I’m like `You’re there. You’re back, you look like you truly are back.’ So, it’s exciting to see him get back and hopefully he just stays hot for us.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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