OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Bob Melvin threw batting practice to Khris Davis all spring and cannot remember the slugger clearing the fences once. Not in an exhibition game, either.
Davis saved those shots for opening night, hitting a go-ahead homer in the sixth and connected again leading off the eighth, and the Oakland Athletics beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 to open the season Monday night.
Davis notched just the second multihomer game on opening day in Oakland history — Jason Giambi did it in 2000 — to back Kendall Graveman (1-0). The right-hander struck out seven over six innings.
“Quiet,” Melvin said of Davis’ spring. “I mean I’d throw BP to him almost every day and I don’t know that he hit a ball out in BP this year in spring training let alone the game. And then hits two balls on a cold night that are no-doubters.”
Mike Trout hit a two-run homer in the third inning for the Angels, then Yonder Alonso’s RBI single in the fifth tied it at 2.
“You get into the season, you get so anxious, you want to do so good,” Trout said. “Keeping it simple helps you calm yourself. Once I got in the box the first at-bat I just tried to calm myself down.”
Davis, who dealt with a sore quadriceps muscle leading up to the opener, connected first against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco (0-1) then JC Ramirez for his 12th career multihomer game. The slugger didn’t hit his first home run last season until April 21 then finished with a career-high 42.
“It’s pretty great. Just you know it’s there, you know there’s a little bit of hope even if it I’m not swinging it well in BP,” said Davis, the first Oakland player with three hits on opening day since 2002. “I’d rather swing it good in the game than in BP.”
Davis earned himself a $5 million contract by beating the A’s in arbitration. He batted .247 for a second straight year with career highs in homers and with 102 RBIs in his first season in Oakland.
Stephen Vogt also homered to support Graveman, who allowed two runs and six hits pitching in place of ace Sonny Gray, who is nursing a lat strain and missed his second straight scheduled opening-day start. He had food poisoning last year.
Ryan Dull struck out the side in the seventh. Sean Doolittle retired the first two batters in the eighth before Ryan Madson relieved and allowed a double to Trout. Santiago Casilla, who blew nine saves in 2016 and was demoted as Giants closer, finished for his first save to begin his second stint with Oakland.
Melvin hadn’t revealed who would close the first game. Casilla pounded his pitching hand into his glove to celebrate after the final out — just the second A’s pitcher with a save on opening day in 24 years, joining Arthur Rhodes in 2004.
RICKEY HENDERSON FIELD
Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson used to sneak into the Coliseum as a boy when he had no money to buy tickets. Now, the diamond carries his name, “Rickey Henderson Field” — formally unveiled Monday.
“My heart and soul is forever Oakland,” he told the crowd. “I love you, Oakland.”
Henderson walked in from center field in a grand entrance. He received a rousing ovation and chants of “Rickey!” then walked down the line shaking every A’s hand. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker makes his first start exactly seven months after being struck in the right side of the head by a line drive at Seattle on Sept. 4 and requiring surgery to stop bleeding on his brain.
Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea takes the ball after making his first opening-day roster, 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.
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