BY RYAN LEONG
It hasn’t been a memorable season for baseball in the Bay Area but the A’s saved their best for last.
Mark Canha delivered a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to give Oakland a 6-5 win over the Mariners in the final home game of 2017.
The Athletics have truly been a Jekyll and Hyde team. At home they finished strong, winning 12 of their last 16 games and went 46-35 (.568 winning percentage) for the season. But as the team knows all too well, you have to play the other 81 games on the road and the green and gold are 27-50 (.351) which is tied for the fewest road victories in the American League.
More importantly, the A’s were able to end a lengthy eight game losing streak against Seattle.
The biggest problem for the upstart A’s is learning to win on the road. Home field advantage isn’t a problem as the walk-off homer was the eighth of the season, second most in Major League history.
“It was such a fun way to end it,” Canha said. “It was a good day and I was having a rough series up until that point. It was nice to cap it off that way for sure.”
Another strong performance was provided by sinkerballer Kendall Graveman, who in his final start pitched six innings scattering seven hits and three runs, striking out four but unforunately got a no-decision.
“The last month, month and a half has been really successful,” Graveman said. “It’s really positive for me going into the off-season to continue to move forward and try to get better. As a pitcher I used more pitches towards the end of the year and I felt that I learned and that I pitched more than I did just beating people with some stuff.”
One of the brightest young future stars will be Matt Olson. The rookie left-handed slugger belted 24 home runs in only 70 games. Unfortunately, because of fellow rookie Aaron Judge and current home run king Giancarlo Stanton, Olson is practically unknown except to the most ardent followers of baseball.
Granted that it was a weekday matinee but attendance continues to be dismal at the Coliseum where the crowd was only 13,132. With the exception of Star Wars fireworks night on Saturday, each of the other five games on the homestand drew less than 19,000 per contest.
With 42 home runs on the year, Khris Davis is the first A’s player with back-to-back 40 home run campaigns since Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx did it in three straight seasons from 1932-1934. Offensively, the A’s have a lineup with plenty of power. When you add Ryon Healy, Matt Chapman, Olson, Marcus Semien, and Jed Lowrie, many managers will be up at night wondering how their pitchers can get these guys out.
If the A’s can get their bullpen straightened out and if they can build a starting rotation with Graveman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Gossett, Paul Blackburn, Jharel Cotton and Daniel Mengden, they should be an exciting team for years to come.
All that’s left is one final road trip to Arlington, Texas for a four-game series against the Rangers. On Thursday, Manaea (11-10, 4.56) gets the ball opposed by Miguel Gonzalez (8-12, 4.62).
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.