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Game #72: Canha Giveth, Canha Taketh Away, Canha Giveth Once More

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

After trading blows early, the A’s relied on late inning dramatics to swoop in and snatch a much-needed victory away from the Angels. Mark Canha drove in half of the runs for the offense, including a two-run home run and a game-tying single in the ninth inning, and the A’s bullpen pitched 5.1 innings of one run ball to keep the game within reach. With a long single to the center field wall with the bases loaded, Jonathan Lucroy walked off the green and gold on what was a beautiful Fathers’ Day afternoon.

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Both teams were quiet in the first inning, save for an exciting moment wherein Ian Kinsler got caught stealing after he took off for second before Mengden started his stretch towards home, forcing a balk that all four umpires missed, and was then tagged out in a rundown. Mengden would be the recipient of several generous calls from the umpiring crew on the day, as would the Angels, but even with a wide strike zone Mengden couldn’t succeed with a lack of location and an inability to put hitters away.

Mark Canha was the starting center fielder for the A’s today, and was both a bane and a boon to the lineup. He provided offense during several key moments of the game, first of which when he followed a Khris Davis walk in the second inning with an arching home run that just cleared the high wall in left field.

In the following half inning, in the top of the third, after Chris Young, shockingly, hit a solo shot to reduce the A’s lead to 2-1. Following the second out of the frame, Mike Trout and Justin Upton each walked, and then Albert Pujols lined a ball to center field. A center fielder with a better first step, foot speed, and glove probably catches the ball, but in a diving effort the ball hit off of Canha’s glove and dropped safely in center for a hit, tying the game.

In a later inning, what would have been an inning ending catch turned into a single because Canha’s first step was backward on a shallow fly ball, and the ball landed a step in front of him. Fortunately, that non-error didn’t come back to haunt the A’s.

With just one strikeout to going into the sixth inning, Mengden wasn’t looking like his sharpest self, and began the frame by allowing a home run to Pujols to break the tie ball game. With one out, a walk to Andrelton Simmons and a single to Luis Valbuena put runners on first and third put the Angels in a good position to double their lead. With Martin Maldonado batting, Valbuena took off for second base on a pitch that spiked into the dirt, and Jonathan Lucroy, popping out of his crouch to make a throw, let the ball get by him, granting Valbuena second base and allowing Simmons to score on the pitch to the backstop. When the third out was made, Mengden had been removed from the game and Yusmeiro Petit was in his place, the score 4.2.

Mengden’s final line was 5.2 innings pitched with four runs, six hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch versus two strikeouts, both of them Maldonado. His performance was aided by a wide strike zone, and June has continued to be a month of regression for the crafty right hander. Is this blip a mirage, or was his month of success a mirage? Is he something in between the two extremes? Probably the latter. It will be interesting to find out going forward.

Petit provided less relief than he was expected, as he began the seventh inning with a double, walk, and single to push the Angels lead to 5-2. Petit was able to navigate out of further trouble thanks to a traditional Pujols double play ball, but the increased lead led to an impression that the game was out of reach.

The A’s did manage to scratch across a run in the seventh inning thanks to one of their patented “Lowrie Runs.” Jed led the inning off with a double to left center that was hit so hard he needed every ounce of his speed to reach second base without getting tagged out. Jed followed that up with an uncharacteristically aggressive tag up from second to third on a line out to center, and was nearly tagged out on that play as well, but replay affirmed that he was safe by a hair. After another moderately deep fly ball to left, Lowrie tagged up to score and bring the A’s within two runs, down 5-3.

Franklin Barreto struck out twice in four at bats today. He also notched his first hit of the season, and just one of three total against Heaney, who pitched eight innings and allowed just the three runs, while walking one and striking out eight, including striking out the side in the eighth inning. So Barreto wasn’t alone in his strikeouts, and also one of them was strongly umpire-aided, as this was one of the worse balls-and-strikes called games the A’s have played in a while. His other strikeout involved him chasing low and away on a curve out of the zone after previously chasing a different curve out of the zone. In the ninth, he made a nifty diving stop while shifted to the shortstop side of second base against Kinsler, but biffed the throw to first for an error. While the error forced Emilio Pagan to throw more pitches in his inning of work, it was ultimately inconsequential.

With Heaney out of the game after eight frames of three hit, three run ball, the team was finally able to string some hits together and make something happen in the ninth. Semien led off the frame by launching a home run off of the left field foul pole to make the game 5-4, and Angels’ closer Blake Parker followed that up by walking Chad Pinder on four pitches. Pinder was replaced on the basepaths by Dustin Fowler, who withstood a multitude of pickoff throws, and outsmarted Valbuena attempts to deceive him via hidden ball trick, before swiping second base on a delayed steal on a blocked pitch in the dirt. Davis, shortly thereafter, with first base suddenly wide open, worked a one out walk to give the A’s runners on first and second, and Parker was replaced in favor of lefty Jose Alvarez.

Alvarez struck out Olson and then was replaced by Cam Bedrosian, brought in to face Canha with one out needed to win the game. Canha watched a first pitch backdoor slider dive outside the zone, but was able to connect with the follow up backdoor slider for a game tying bloop single. Canha giveth, Canha taketh away, Canha giveth once more.

Blake Treinen was brought in and pitched mostly harmless 10th and 11th innings, but looking further within his otherwise nothing-special outing was a spectacular running catch that was one of the better run downs and catches by an outfielder all year, made by none other than Mark Canha.

In the bottom of the eleventh, with Bedrosian still pitching, Lowrie singled and Davis was hit by a pitch to give the A’s a no-out rally with Olson coming up. Olson held strong for a long at bat, but on the seventh pitch was retired on a line drive to center field, but, like the “Lowrie-run” in the seventh, Jed was able to advance to third on the rocket. This prompted the Angels to use a five infielder set up with none other than Mark Canha coming up to the plate against Eduardo Perez (who does a Kimbrel stance, which is, a normal thing now, I guess) on the mound. Canha walked, robbed of the heroic moment he so deserved, loading the bases for Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy blasted a ball to the wall and got nothing but a single out of it, cause Lowrie scored from third and the game was over.

A’s win a series against the oh-so-annoying Angels, meaning they won a series against a non-Rangers AL West opponent. The A’s have reached the .500 mark once again and move within two games of the Angels in the standings.