Davis, A’s look to avoid sweep vs. Rays

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics expect home run leader Khris Davis back in the lineup Thursday afternoon when they try to snap a three-game losing streak and salvage the finale of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The A’s have struggled offensively on their 10-game homestand that came on the heels of a four-game sweep at Toronto.

Davis suffered a strained groin in the finale at Toronto, and the A’s have totaled 15 runs in the nine games since he went on the disabled list.

The slump has reached its low point in the three losses to Tampa Bay, which hadn’t recorded a shutout this season before blanking the A’s 1-0 in 13 innings on Monday and 6-0 on a combined one-hitter Wednesday.

The A’s have totaled five home runs on the homestand, all solo shots. They haven’t hit one since Sunday against Arizona.

Davis has 13 home runs. He belted four on Oakland’s 10-game trip to New York, Boston and Toronto, when the team scored 60 runs and won seven times.

“We’re struggling, and it gets contagious,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ll get K.D. (Davis) back (Thursday). That’s a nice boost for us.”

The A’s also were without shortstop Marcus Semien in Wednesday’s loss. He stepped away from the team on a paternity leave and won’t play in the series finale, either.

Chad Pinder, who had two of Oakland’s four errors in the 6-0 defeat, likely will get a second consecutive start Thursday.

The A’s will send right-hander Daniel Mengden (5-4, 2.85) to the mound in search of a fourth consecutive win.

He’s coming off a 3-0, complete-game victory over Arizona on Saturday, increasing his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 17.

Mengden has never faced Tampa Bay.

The 25-year-old will be opposed by right-hander Ryne Stanek (1-0, 3.24) in what could be another parade of pitchers for the Rays.

They have used 12 pitchers in the three-game series in Oakland despite having allowed only three runs.

Remarkably, the pitchers have included a guy who recorded his first save since 2011 (Jonny Venters), a guy who pitched consecutive days in relief after having started two of the previous three days (Sergio Romo), a guy who faced three batters and struck them all out in his major-league debut (Jaime Schultz), and a guy who threw six no-hit innings in his first start since 2016, having undergone two elbow surgeries in the meantime (Nathan Eovaldi).

Eovaldi walked one while throwing 70 pitches in Wednesday’s victory.

“It felt great being out there,” Eovaldi told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “I was so focused on getting that first out I think after I got it after emotions kind of got to me I was a little nervous out there I walked 1/8No. 2 hitter Matt Chapman 3/8 on four straight and then I was able to regroup and settle back down.”

Stanek got the win in Monday’s 1-0, 13-inning victory with 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief.

He’s made one previous start this season, facing five batters and retiring them all in a 5-1 victory over Baltimore on Saturday.

Stanek has faced the A’s twice in his career, both times in relief, and has a 1-0 record despite a 7.36 ERA.

The Rays will be going for a sixth straight win. They also had a six-game streak from May 14-19, giving them 12 wins in their last 16 contests.