OAKLAND — Between Mark Canha and the five other A’s with 20 or more home runs this season, the Oakland Athletics tend to rub opposing teams the wrong way. They’re third in baseball with 84 batters hit by pitches — four short of the team’s single-season record, set in 2001.
“The other day we were talking about it, and he called himself a ‘button-pusher,’” manager Bob Melvin said on Wednesday morning. “He’s kind of the poster child for that right now.”
Canha was hit twice Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals. It could be his t-shirts promoting “Bat Flippin’ Season.” It could be the fact that the A’s have six players who have hit 20 or more homers (including Canha). Or, it could be the swagger of a team that’s on pace to win nearly 100 games for the second year in a row. Whatever the reason, Canha and the Athletics are getting battered.
“You know, we got we got a lot of guy who hit home runs team try to pitch in some just gets a little frustrating sometimes,” Melvin said.
Canha paces the A’s with 17 HBPs — fourth most in A’s history, and tied for the league lead. Not surprisingly, Matt Olson (12), Ramon Laureano (11) and Matt Chapman (10) — all of whom have at least 20 home runs — are right behind him. Canha, though, is the only one who could be said to even come close to hanging over the plate. It’s more likely that his brash demeanor is the source for some pitchers’ consternation, or the fact that he doesn’t apologize for it, and rather, leans in, figuratively speaking. Melvin has told opposing managers not to take what Canha does that seriously.
“I’ve even spoke to managers on the other side, about how endeared he is in this clubhouse for the way he plays,” Melvin said. “You talk about guys like chase Utley and on the other side that kind of got under your skin a little bit the way they played. But if you were on their team, you loved how they play. I think he falls under that category.”
Ironically, on Tuesday, it was nothing Canha did that got him pegged.
After Olson’s 450-foot blast to center field in the seventh inning, Royals starter Jorge Lopez glared at the A’s first baseman, despite Olson not taking any longer than usual to admire the mortar shot to the first row of seats above the luxury suites. Lopez dotted Canha in the ribs the very next pitch with a 94-mph fastball. Olson ascribed intention to it. Melvin was upset. In his postgame press conference, he called it “weak.”
“You know, you get a little emotional during the games, and I probably said something out of turn afterwards,” Melvin said on Wednesday morning. “I don’t know what anybody’s thinking. I’m just saying what it looked like at the time, so we’ll leave it at that. I can’t even comment on retaliation. I mean, there have been guys from hit from us during series too.”
The A’s did not retaliate, and generally don’t. Oakland’s pitchers are 15th in baseball in hit batters — square in the middle.
“You have to be cognizant as well and not get too frustrated, knowing what we have at stake,” said Melvin, whose team moved to two games up in the American League wild card with their 2-1 win and a Tampa Bay loss on Tuesday night.
Keeping the Fiers burning: Mike Fiers said that the MRI on his right hand came back clean, and he’s feeling fine after his 35-pitch bullpen on Tuesday, and that he’ll be ready to pitch on Friday.
Fiers had exited his last start after throwing a cutter caused the fingers on his right hand to go numb after his first pitch to the Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor. His bullpen on Tuesday helped him find confidence in his off-speed pitches again.
“Better peace of mind,” Fiers said. “It was a scare. Usually, your fingers don’t go numb when you throw a pitch. It was a one-time thing. It’s happened in the past, but we just wanted to make sure I felt great. It was all mental at that point, not being able to stay with my delivery and throw the same pitches.”
Fiers admitted to feeling gunshy after that pitch to Odor.
“When you do that, you’re pretty much done,” Fiers said. “Hitters can pick that up and they’re going to take advantage of you.”
Even as Fiers moves toward a Friday start, the A’s will still keep tabs on him, just in case.
“We’ll continue to monitor him, but … he’s pretty routine oriented, so we’ll keep on schedule,” Melvin said.