Khris Davis working hard to improve his throwing in left

Khris Davis working hard to improve his throwing in left

MESA, Ariz. — Everybody knows the impact Khris Davis makes in the middle of the A’s lineup, but this spring the left fielder is working to improve another aspect of his game.

Davis and A’s outfield coach Mike Aldrete are working regularly on improving the strength and accuracy of Davis’ throwing arm. Opposing base runners have gotten bold in taking the extra base on Davis, and while he acknowledges he’s never going to develop a cannon, he and Aldrete both believe there’s room for improvement that can make a difference throughout the season.

“We’re not looking for him to throw like Roberto Clemente,” Aldrete said. “What we’re really working on is trying to stop guys from taking extra bases.”

Davis takes the task seriously, and he’s frank in his comments about wanting to become a better outfield thrower.

“Nobody’s harder on themselves than me, and when I hear I throw like a girl, that (stuff) doesn’t feel good,” he said. “But at the same time, where I lack somewhere, I gain somewhere else. Just because I have a weak arm doesn’t mean I’m a bad left fielder. I can still cut balls off and get it in.

“It’s just a matter of minimizing bad throws.”

He’s got a good mentor in Aldrete, who played 10 years in the majors and admits that he had a weak arm in left field when he initially moved from first base with the Giants. But he made gradual improvement over time, and though Aldrete never struck fear in opponents with his arm, he says that part of his game became adequate.

“To me it’s a lot like speed,” Aldrete said. “No one’s ever going to make me a 100-meter Olympic champion. But whatever I’ve got today, if I can work on it and be faster than I am today, that’s a good thing.”

Helping Davis become a more well-rounded defender would benefit the A’s. He’s their best power hitter, one of just seven players in franchise history to notch a 40-homer season, so he needs to be a daily fixture in the middle of the order. One option would be to use Davis more at designated hitter. But the A’s want to cycle other players through the DH spot too, including Ryon Healy, who doesn’t have a regular defensive position right now but whose bat needs to be in the lineup somewhere.

If Davis improves his throwing, it might make opponents alter their scouting reports a bit, where a ball hit toward the left field line doesn’t automatically have a hitter thinking “double” out of the box.

Davis and Aldrete are putting in extra work two or three mornings a week, with Davis logging time in the batting cage on other days. As he points out, there’s a balance to strike between working on throwing and making sure he keeps his swing grooved.

“Honestly, I have to work on (throwing) a lot more than my hitting,” Davis said. “But at the same time, it’s a fine line because I don’t want to take away from my hitting, because there’s times I’ve got to work on my swing too.”

A's lineup: In rare move, Melvin makes no changes vs Astros

A's lineup: In rare move, Melvin makes no changes vs Astros

PROGRAMMING NOTE: A's-Astros coverage begins at 4pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

After winning their fourth straight game on Tuesday, the A's are trotting out the same lineup Wednesday against the Astros.

Oakland A's:
1. Matt Joyce (L) LF
2. Matt Olson (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) DH
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Bruce Maxwell (L) C
8. Franklin Barreto (R) SS
9. Jaycob Brugman (L) CF
Jesse Hahn -- RHP

Houston Astros:
1. George Springer (R) CF
2. Josh Reddick (L) RF
3. Jose Altuve (R) 2B
4. Carlos Correa (R) SS
5. Brian McCann (L) C
6. Carlos Beltran (S) DH
7. Marwin Gonzalez (S) 3B
8. Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
9. Norichika Aoki (L) LF
David Paulino -- RHP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's streak-extending win over Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's streak-extending win over Astros

BOX SCORE

The A’s took a noteworthy step toward changing the narrative in their recent history against the Houston Astros.

Coming through during clutch moments, both at the plate and on the mound, Oakland beat baseball’s best team 6-4 Tuesday at Minute Maid Park to run their winning streak to four.

Ryon Healy hit his first career grand slam to snap a 1-1 tie in the sixth, and starter Sean Manaea notched his first victory in seven career starts against the Astros, throwing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

George Springer’s three-run homer off Liam Hendriks pulled Houston to within two runs in the ninth, but with two runners aboard, Santiago Casilla coaxed a 3-6-1 double play from Brian McCann to end it.

The A’s (35-42), who have stumbled so badly on the road for the majority of this season, moved to 4-0 on this six-game road trip and defeated the Astros (52-26) for just the second time in their past 17 meetings with them.

Key two-out rallies: They came in with a majors-worst .225 average with runners in scoring position, but the A’s delivered in some key at-bats and scored five of their six runs with two outs. Bruce Maxwell singled home Khris Davis in the second to get the A’s on the board. Then with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, with the score 1-1, Ryon Healy capped an eight-pitch at-bat with an opposite-field grand slam, his 18th homer of the season.

Making himself at home: Sean Manaea (7-4) flirted with danger throughout his 5 2/3 innings but wound up registering his first victory in seven career starts against Houston. He stranded two runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, then wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with minimal damage. With no outs and the bags filled, Manaea fell behind 3-0 to Evan Gattis. Gattis chased a low pitch that would have been ball four and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored on the play but that play defused the rally and Manaea escaped with just the one run scoring that kept it a 1-1 game. The lefty gave up nine hits, but he’s now allowed just one earned run over three career starts at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park (16 IP).

Madson comes up clutch: Ryan Madson took two losses in four appearances at Minute Maid Park last season and allowed five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. But manager Bob Melvin called on him in a crucial situation Tuesday, with two runners aboard and George Springer hitting in the sixth with the A’s up 5-1. Madson got Springer swinging on a 97 mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning and keep Houston from jumping back into the game after Oakland had scored four to command the lead. Madson retired all four batters he faced with three strikeouts.

Maxwell continues his roll: The A’s catcher went 3-for-4 and is 10-for-18 since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville. He also threw out Jose Altuve trying to steal second in the first.

Casilla slams the door: After Springer’s three-run shot in the ninth, Santiago Casilla entered and allowed singles to Altuve and Carlos Correa to bring the winning run to the plate. But Casilla retired pinch hitter Josh Reddick on a foul pop out and got McCann on the game-ending double play, getting over to cover first to cap the play.