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Canha’s pinch-hit homer sparks A’s 4-3 victory over Giants

BY ANTHONY SOSA

Mark Canha delivered a clutch, pinch-hit two run home run in the top of the seventh inning and the bullpen supplied lights out pitching to help the Oakland Athletics narrowly escape with a 4-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants Saturday night in the second game of the Battle of the Bay series at AT&T Park.

The Giants entered the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead. Tony Watson was summoned out of the pen and struggled to record an out giving up a leadoff single to Josh Phegley. Mark Canha followed as a pinch-hitter and obliterated a baseball half-way up the left-field bleachers to give the A’s a 4-3 lead. The 434-foot bomb was Canha’s 12th of 2018 and his first career pinch-hit home run. “I told myself I was going to take a pitch and kind of get into the at-bat, get a feel for how they were going to pitch me. I just got into the rhythm and got into a count where I somewhat knew what was coming and I think that helped out,” Canha said.

Growing up as a Giants fan in San Jose, Canha’s connection with the Giants’ organization from a young age played into his reaction when he hit the homer, which included both a dramatic bat drop and strong emotion coming into the dugout. He appeared to mouth the words “my house” on his arrival back to the dugout. “I haven’t played well here in the past, at AT&T Park that is. It was just nice, growing up in San Jose and being a Giants’ fan, coming to all those games as a kid, it was nice to finally pop one,” Canha said about his emotions. “Given the situation, I was excited.”

The game’s scoring opened up in the second inning with both teams trading blows. The A’s started in the top half when Matt Chapman and Chad Pinder worked back-to-back walks to start off the frame. A Dustin Fowler deep fly ball advanced Chapman to third, and then a rather shallow fly ball to right field from Phegley was still deep enough to score Chapman and the first run of the game. However, Oakland didn’t hold the lead for long. Steven Duggar led off the bottom frame with a double and Alen Hanson drove him home with a ground-ball single into left field.

The A’s didn’t waste much time regaining the lead. In the top of the third inning, Stephen Piscotty led off with a blistering shot off the right-field wall for a double. After advancing on a wild pitch, he scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Khris Davis. Piscotty continues to swing a hot stick throughout the month of July. He’s hitting .304 with nine of his 13 hits going for extra bases this month.

The Giants captured the lead in the bottom half of the fourth. Gorkys Hernandez began the inning with a double. Steven Duggar followed with a double of his own to tie the game at two. Duggar continues to hit well since his call-up on July 8. In five games with the Giants, Duggar’s hitting .320 with five doubles and six runs scored. His last four hits have been doubles.

Despite only throwing 55 pitches, Giants’ starter Jeff Samardzija was removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth inning for pinch-hitter Austin Slater. Bruce Bochy’s move worked to perfection as Slater came through with an RBI single to score Duggar. Samardzija finished with four innings of work, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks. The right-hander struck out just one batter in his short outing.

Despite only throwing 55 pitches, Giants’ starter Jeff Samardzija was removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth inning for pinch-hitter Austin Slater. Bruce Bochy’s move worked to perfection as Slater came through with an RBI single to score Duggar. Samardzija finished with four innings of work, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks. The right-hander struck out just one batter in his short outing.

Just like the Giants, the A’s didn’t see their starting pitcher work past the fourth inning. With the Giants nearly batting around in the bottom of the fourth, Athletics’ manager Bob Melvin pulled starter Brett Anderson during the inning. Anderson pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out one in a very disappointing outing for the lefty. “When we have a full bullpen, we can go to it early,” Melvin said. “It’s a significant bullpen. They’ve had a lot of work lately.”

With Samardzija out, Bochy went to starter-turned-reliever Derek Holland to keep the A’s at bay. Holland did just that and more. In two innings of work, he struck out the first five batters he faced. The lefty, who was just a Spring Training invite to start the season, continues to be a huge asset for the Giants, whether starting or pitching out of the pen.

The combination of Canha’s seventh inning home run and the A’s lock down bullpen provided them with just enough to squeak out the victory. Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino and All-Star closer Blake Treinen combined for 5.2 innings of work without giving up a run on just two hits and three walks. The trio struck out eight batters.

Petit, who provided the A’s with some extra length after Anderson failed to make it out of the fourth, earned the win. Melvin emphasized how important Petit was for tonight’s victory. “He’s as versatile of a reliever that I’ve ever had,” he said. “That was a significant pick up for us… He’s pitched the last few years as well as he ever has in his entire career.”

Along with Petit pitching multiple innings, Trivino also provided two innings on the mound for the A’s. Without much recognition outside of Oakland, the rookie reliever continues to be one of the best late-inning pitchers this season. He’s provided 43 1/3 innings for the team and owns a low 1.25 ERA to go along with 11 holds. “Trivino has really made us who we are now,” Melvin said. “Blake’s (Treinen) been terrific all year at the end…but when we got Trivino and put him in the eighth inning role, it’s been a different bullpen since… He’s a killer out there.”

Treinen shut it down in the ninth and recorded his 24th save of the campaign. The bullpen continues to carry this young and talented Oakland club. They improved to 37-0 when leading after seven innings and 45-0 when leading after eight innings this season. They are 54-42 overall.

With two outs in the ninth, the Giants attempted to come back but Brandon Crawford struck out with runners on first and second to end it. The Giants had other opportunities to score earlier in the game as well. In the first and fourth innings, they left the bases loaded. With the loss, the Giants fall to 50-47 on the year.

The Battle of the Bay concludes its first series Sunday before the All-Star break begins. Both teams will send left-handers to the mound in the series finale. The Giants call on rookie Andrew Suarez (3-5, 3.75) to take the bump for them. In his past five starts, Suarez owns a 1.74 ERA and four quality starts. He’s allowed just one earned run in four straight outings. As for the A’s, Sean Manaea (8-6, 3.44) toes the rubber. He looks to bounce back after his last start in Houston that resulted in him pitching just four innings while giving up three earned runs. Sunday’s game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. at AT&T Park.

Game Notes:

Brandon Belt was ejected by crew chief and third-base umpire Greg Gibson after Gibson called Belt out on a check-swing strikeout in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Giants’ first baseman continued to bark at the umpire as he headed to the dugout and when he came out for the top of the fifth, he continued to argue and was eventually tossed.

Before Saturday’s game, the Athletics made five roster moves. They recalled both Franklin Barreto and J.B. Wendelken from triple-A Nashville. They optioned Ryan Dull to triple-A Nashville. Daniel Mengden was reinstated form the 10-day DL and was subsequently optioned to triple-A. Lastly, the A’s designated Santiago Casilla for assignment.

Casilla being DFA comes as a bit of a surprise because he’s pitched well in 2018. His numbers aren’t dominant but enough to keep him on a major league roster (3.16 ERA). A’s manager Bob Melvin explained that the organization has relievers in the minors that need to make it up to the big league roster. “It just got to a point where he needs regular work and he wasn’t able to get regular work with us,” Melvin said. “He was a big personality in our clubhouse, so it’s difficult on that front. We do have some younger guys that we feel like need to get to the big leagues. So, hopefully, he catches on somewhere else where he can get some regular work and perform in the fashion he expects to.”

One of the minor leaguers that was ticketed for the major league roster was Saturday call-up Wendelken. In both double-A and triple-A this season, the 25-year-old pitched 41.2 innings, posting a 3.46 ERA and 68 strikeouts. “This is a guy (Wendelken) that our development people really like,” Melvin said. “So, he’s here and he probably starts out in a little bit of a longer role depending on who’s available. (He) has good stuff and he’s having a good year.”

Jed Lowrie, who suffered a left leg contusion in Friday night’s game after colliding with teammate Stephen Piscotty, was not available to start on Saturday. However, he did pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. The plan is for Lowrie to start Sunday. “Even last night (Friday night) I was a little concerned about where we were going to be with him over the next couple of days but (the injury) didn’t get worse from how he was feeling yesterday,” Melvin said.

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