Canha crushes game-winner to close home season

“Let’s all celebrate and have a good time.” Because Kool and the Gang said so. So did Mark Canha, whose walkoff home run Wednesday ended the Athletics‘ home schedule with the team’s eighth game-ending homer — tied for second-most in a season all time.

The A’s (73-85) had to overcome the adversity of an eighth-inning game-tying two-run shot by Robinson Cano, and they did it, in the words of manager Bob Melvin, in the only way that made sense — with the long ball:

“Of course, we want to win for out fans on the last day here. … Certainly, to do it dramatic fashion like that, the fans always like that. We’ve had walkoffs this year, so it was kinda apropos of what the last day should have looked like.”

With the 6-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners (77-82), the A’s finish the campaign with a 46-35 record at home — their first winning home record since 2014, as seal the club’s first winning month since April of 2016.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Canha called it a “good,” “fun” day:

“It’s been an up-and-down season for us, as a team, and for me personally. It’s always nice to get some good closure.”

The walkoff solo shot (5) was Canha’s second hit in 16 at-bats during the season’s final homestand, though he did add a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning Wednesday.

For the first time since Kenny Rogers in 1998, and second time ever, an A’s pitcher will finish the season undefeated in Oakland with five or more wins.

That pitcher is Kendall Graveman, who had his win Wednesday relinquished with Chris Hatcher‘s eighth-inning blown save (4), but departed after 6 seven-hit innings with a 5-3 lead in tow.

Despite bouts of inconsistency, mostly revolving around some lingering shoulder issues which shelved the hurler for more than two months, Graveman (ND, 6-4, 4.19 ERA) remained a metronome for the A’s season-long home success. The 26-year-old ace finished the 2017 season with a 2.94 ERA in home games, the ninth-best mark among American League pitchers who have made five or more such starts.

While he admitted that his time spent on the disabled list may have contributed to his 5-0 record in Oakland, Graveman said the record wasn’t of that much importance:

“To go undefeated at home was good. But, for me, as long as the games that I start we win, that’s what I want. I don’t care if I get the win or loss, just like today, just find a way to win a ballgame.

The biggest blow to Graveman’s efforts was undoubtedly a laser home run, measured at 117 miles per hour off the bat by Dinger Tracker, by Nelson Cruz, his fourth in Oakland this season.

With that two-run bolt (38), Cruz knotted up the affair, 2-2, in the fourth after sacrifice flies from Khris Davis in the first and Marcus Semien in the second.

A Bruce Maxwell RBI single and Matt Joyce RBI double — his third double of the game — bracketed the A’s third RBI fly out, Canha’s, in the bottom of the fourth. For Melvin, seeing solid situational approaches from a team so dependent on the homer all season was like a breath of fresh, though he did add that finishing the scoring with the long ball was more of what was to be expected:

“Our situational hitting early in the game was really good … we were 4-for-4 in our first situational at-bats, we had some sac flies.”

Graveman allowed one more run in the fifth before departing having struck out four. He also walked one to go with seven hits allowed.

While Cano’s eighth-inning homer (23) did little for the outcome, it did get Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez. In this, his ninth game in Oakland (fifth start), Ramirez (ND, 5-6, 4.39 ERA) has now allowed 17 earned runs in 34-2/3 innings of work, good for a 4.41 ERA, but the comeback rescued the veteran righty from a fourth loss at the Coliseum, where he has never won.

Instead, the loss went to reliever Shae Simmons (L, 0-1, 2.57 ERA).

The skipper said it was nice to play good at home all season, adding that continuing a recent run of success on the road would catapult his team into a very positive offseason and exciting 2018:

“The way we’ve been playing, obviously you’d like to have a little more time with it, but we’ve been working pretty hard. Hopefully we have a good series in Texas and we can leave with a real good feeling going into next spring, and that was the objective here the last month.”

On deck

With the home season complete, the A’s finish the 2017 campaign with a four-game set in Arlington against the Rangers (77-81). A four-game sweep Texas would push Oakland past the Rangers and out of the AL West cellar.

The A’s are 9-6 against the Rangers this season, including three-game sweeps in each of the teams’ past two meetings — once in Oakland and once in Texas. Sean Manaea (11-10, 4.56 ERA) will get the ball in Thursday’s series-opener looking to finish his up and down season on a high note. He is 3-2 with a 4.44 ERA in his past five starts.

Notes

Liam Hendriks was rewarded the 2017 Dave Stewart Community Service Award in a ceremony prior to the game. The award is earned annually by an A’s player in recognition of his charitable contributions. Hendriks, the team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee, has taken part in numerous initiatives, including “K Poverty,” aiming to end poverty in the Dominican Republic. … With two more Wednesday, A’s pitchers have now surrendered 207 home runs this season, setting a franchise record. The previous record (205) was set in 1996. … Matt Joyce rapped out three doubles, setting a new career-high (33). His previous high was 32, set in 2011. The right fielder has also hit a career-best 24 home runs this year, surpassing the 19 he slugged — also in 2011. … Mariner catcher Mike Marjama singled on a line drive to center field in the fifth inning collecting the first hit of his major league career.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.