A's walk off again, sweep Astros, stay alive

Canha dedicates big hit to fans: 'I feel like I'm playing for them'

September 27th, 2021

OAKLAND -- The A’s still aren’t sure if they’ll get to play another game at the Coliseum this season. If this weekend was truly the final home series of the year, they sure treated their fans to a satisfying finale.

knew it was over once he made contact. Facing Astros closer Ryan Pressly with the bases loaded and one out, Canha roped a first-pitch slider and immediately flipped his bat in the air as he watched a deep drive bounce off the left-field wall for a walk-off single, ending a tightly-contested 4-3 victory over Houston.

“One last day of Bat Flippin’ Season,” Canha said. “For the people.”

The win capped a three-game sweep of their division rivals, keeping the A’s alive both in the American League West and Wild Card race. With the win, Oakland stayed six back of Houston in the AL West and three back of Boston for the second Wild Card spot.

The final month of the season hasn’t exactly played out the way the A’s hoped. Their playoff hopes remain a long shot. But the positive vibes produced from walk-off victories on back-to-back days against the first-place Astros will send the A’s on the road for six final games against the Mariners and Astros feeling like there’s still plenty to play for.

"It sets us up as good as we possibly could set ourselves up," Canha said of the three-game sweep. "We needed to grab some momentum and grab some good feels. To sweep a great team like that feels really good, especially given the last homestand and what’s on the line.

"We’re just going to keep fighting. I think everyone is pulling in the same direction."

Right-hander Paul Blackburn kept the A’s in the game with five solid innings of one-run ball, holding the Astros hitless until the fifth. Blackburn’s outing followed a positive trend by A’s starters as of late. Over the three games against Houston, A’s starters held a potent offense to just three earned runs across 19 innings pitched.

"The last couple days, they’ve been real aggressive,” Blackburn said. "I just tried to focus on making my pitches. Throughout the whole outing, even when I fell behind, I didn’t want to give in to them. I felt like I moved the ball around well and kept it down for a lot of ground balls. That’s usually when I’m good."

Before Canha played hero in the ninth, he also played his own supporting role in the seventh. The outfielder knocked home the game-tying run on a single that bounced off Alex Bregman’s glove near third base.

Setting the scene for Canha in the ninth was some impressive small ball from the A’s, including Vimael Machín reaching on a bunt that hit off the glove of Yuli Gurriel near the pitcher’s mound.

On Saturday, Starling Marte, who also walked it off against Pressly with a double, credited A’s catcher Yan Gomes for a conversation prior to the game-winning at-bat in which Gomes provided some advice on how to approach the right-hander. Once Canha watched the Astros summon Pressly on Sunday from the on-deck circle, he immediately walked back to the dugout and sought out the veteran catcher. One pitch later, the game was over.

"He’s been great,” Canha said of Gomes. "He’s one of those guys that has been around that you want to try to pick their brain. You can tell he’s smart about the game and has some savvy. I knew he had a lot of success against Pressly, so I went straight to him. He gave me a little confidence heading into that AB."

With the uncertainty of another game at the Coliseum this year, Canha, an impending free agent this offseason, took several extra minutes to soak in the admiration from the Oakland faithful. After carrying Tony Kemp for a piggyback ride back to the dugout at the conclusion of the walk-off celebration, Canha hung around to sign autographs and take pictures with fans who gathered near the A’s bench.

A Bay Area native who grew up in San Jose and attended college at UC Berkeley, Canha’s relationship with A’s fans is a special one. Though Canha’s season has been up and down in terms of offensive production, he said he wanted fans to know he appreciated their consistent support throughout.

"I’m from here and I feel a connection to these people," Canha said. "They’ve always been so good to me in good times and bad times. It’s just meant a lot to me to play for this organization and to play for [the fans]. I feel like I’m playing for them."