AT&T PARK — Mark Canha grew up a San Francisco Giants fan in San Jose. He grew up coming to games at AT&T Park. Since he’s been in the major leagues, though, the park hasn’t been too kind. In eight games, he had just one hit. Until Saturday.
With San Francisco up 3-2 over Canha’s visiting Oakland Athletics in the second game of the Bay Bridge Series, Canha was called upon to pinch hit, and drilled a 3-2 93-mph sinker 434 feet for his 12th home run of the season into the left field bleachers.
“That’s a pretty significant homer,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s cold, and you hope you just get it over the fence, and he hit it more than halfway up.”
With both teams jockeying for position in tight divisions, the Giants used six pitchers, the A’s used four and the two teams combined to use five pinch hitters — including Canha — on a brisk night that felt more like October than mid-July. Canha’s home run proved to be the difference in a 4-3 Oakland win.
Canha said that home run is probably his favorite of his career and said the feeling after he hit it and just knew it went out was pure elation.
“It was nice to finally pop one given the situation. I was excited,” he said. “… It’s just going to be fun to go brag to all my Giants friends to say I did that after having a lot of great childhood memories here.”
Canha’s post-homer celebration drew some ire from fans who questioned whether he yelled “my house” or “let’s go” after killing that ball and who didn’t appreciate what they considered to be a bat flip.
“I’m sure a lot of San Franciscans are offended by that, and I’m sorry,” he said.
Then he added: “I’m not sorry. I’m not really sorry.”
Canha said he told himself he was going to take a pitch and just get into a kind of rhythm for how San Francisco reliever Tony Watson was going to pitch to him, and “(I) got into a count where I feel like I somewhat knew what was coming.”
The A’s started the playoff-like gamesmanship when third base coach Matt Williams sent Matt Chapman home on a short fly to right field in the second inning. Andrew McCutchen’s throw was up the first base line, allowing Chapman to score, giving Oakland a 1-0 lead.
After the A’s got up 2-1, the lineup maneuvering continued, with the Giants batting for starter Jeff Samardzija in the bottom of the fourth inning in order to take advantage of a runner on third base. Pinch hitter Austin Slater obliged with an RBI single, which prompted the A’s to in turn pull their starter, Brett Anderson, after 3 1/3 innings.
The Giants used starter Derek Holland to pitch two scoreless innings of relief after Samardzija, with the left-hander striking out five.
Canha slugged his homer while pinch-hitting for Yusmeiro Petit, after Watson had replaced Holland.
Melvin noted that Canha has been making the most out of every opportunity the team has given him, but it was that home run — Canha’s first career pinch-hit homer — way up in the left field bleachers that was the game-changer.
While the San Francisco bullpen gave up the lead, the Oakland bullpen held the line. Former Giant Petit went 2 2/3 innings and gave up just two hits, and Lou Trivino, the team’s eighth-inning man, was again fantastic, earning his 11th hold with two innings of scoreless relief, striking out three and walking two, but not allowing a hit.
“Trivino has really made us who we are now,” Melvin said. “When we got Trivino and put him in that eighth inning role, it’s been a different bullpen since. … He’s a killer out there.”
In the end, A’s All-Star closer Blake Treinen battled through a 23-pitch ninth and struck out Giants All-Star starter Brandon Crawford to wrap up the win.
“When we have a full bullpen, we can go at it early,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s a significant bullpen. … When we get a lead, we feel pretty good about it.”