Bay Area residents awoke to loud rumblings Sunday morning, and it may have been thunder from the overnight storm. Or, it might have been the sound still echoing from Mark Canha’s epic home run the night before.
The Oakland A’s outfielder has established himself as a quality performer at this point, putting together an excellent campaign in 2019 and carrying on that success this summer without missing a beat. He’s one of the better hitters in the league, with plus power and top-notch patience and pitch selection, and defensively he’s currently filling in at center field while a teammate is out of action. That’s not a role player anymore, that’s an outright star.
Nowhere is that more apparent than at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Canha grew up in the Bay Area, attending high school in San Jose and college at Berkeley, and he was a Giants fan as a kid. That hasn’t stopped him from terrorizing his former favorite team.
To begin, his numbers in the City are better than anywhere else, at least among places where he’s made more than two starts. In his dozen games there (43 plate appearances):
Canha, in SF: .286/.395/.543, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 BB, 11 Ks
That’s a .938 OPS and more than an RBI per game. Cut it down to just 2018-20, and that OPS goes up to 1.121.
But it’s not just the raw numbers. Canha has iconic moments in this park.
The first came in July 2018. The A’s were just announcing themselves as a new contender, and looking for chances to prove it to the world. They trailed the Giants in the 7th, and Canha came in to pinch-hit against lefty setup man Tony Watson. He got a 3-2 pitch he liked and hammered it deep into the stands, giving the A’s a lead and proving to be the eventual game-winner.
The drive came complete with a signature Canha bat flip, and as he returned to the dugout he reminded everyone where they were by shouting, “My house!”
He spoke about the hometown homer after the game, via Steve Kroner of the S.F. Chronicle:
“It means a lot to me,” Canha said. “It might be my favorite one to date. I came to this park as a kid a lot. It’s just going to be fun to go brag to all of my Giants friends, and say that I did that after having a lot of really great childhood memories here. It’s probably my favorite one.”
Canha almost certainly topped that moment on Saturday.
Once again the A’s were trailing late in a game, but this time the situation was more dire. They’d entered the 9th inning down by three, and they’d scored once but also put two outs on the board. With a man on third, the Giants walked Matt Olson to get to Canha, representing the go-ahead run. Whatever wisdom there may have been to avoiding Olson’s potent bat went out the window when Oracle Canha was activated.
A chess match ensued with reliever Trevor Gott. A curve missed high for Ball 1. Two fastballs up in the zone were more than Canha could handle, yielding a whiff and a foul. Gott went even further up the ladder but Canha laid off for Ball 2. Gott returned to the curve, properly breaking it down low and away but failing to entice Canha to chase out of the zone. Full count, with the A’s down to their last strike.
Gott challenged Canha once more with a fastball, but this time he caught a little too much plate and Outta Da Park Mark didn’t miss.
Just plain crazy. That blast put the A’s on top, and they held on to win.
Canha: "I was trying to go deep."— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) August 16, 2020
The night before, the A’s had battled back from five runs down in the 9th to tie it and eventually win, so this was their second straight sizable comeback victory over the Giants. The go-ahead run in that Friday game? A sac fly by Canha, in the 10th. It seemed impossible that they would stun the same team a second game in a row, but Oracle Canha rose to the challenge.
He wrapped up his big series on Sunday, launching a triple to the wall in CF that nearly went over for another dinger. Instead he settled for a pair of RBI amid a nine-run inning and a 15-3 rout. Oakland scored 30 runs in the series, and he drove in 20% of them.
Even on defense, Canha shined at Oracle this past weekend. On Friday he made a brilliant running catch in center field, leaping in front of the wall and then banging into it hard on the way down. The grab saved at least one run, and without it the A’s may have fallen too far behind to come back in the 9th like they did. He was shaken up after the play and took a moment to return to his feet, but in the next inning he was able to score from first base on a triple so he seemed OK. After all, Oracle Park would never hurt its favorite son.
This series must have been endlessly frustrating for Giants fans, watching A’s hitters work counts and take close balls and draw walks and foul off pitches until finally there was a mistake they could destroy at the most soul-crushing moments. Nobody in the lineup embodies that approach quite as well as Canha, and it was on full display all weekend, especially in the 9th inning on Saturday. Seeing him come to the plate in that spot, knowing that he would at least put up a tough at-bat, brought a classic feeling of “it ain’t over till it’s over.” And it wasn’t over.
There are surely other players who have better career numbers at Oracle Park, and Canha himself has other highlights elsewhere, but something extra special happens when you put the two together. Factor in his lifelong history at the stadium, and it’s probably safe to just sign the deed over to him now. He owns the place.