NEW YORK -- The conversation proved short, but foretelling: A's manager Bob Melvin sought out Mark Canha ahead of the club's series opener in New York on Tuesday afternoon and attempted to give his young slugger -- without an at-bat in a week's time -- something of a pep talk.
"He goes, 'Don't worry about me, I'm fine, I'm going to keep working, and I'll be ready when my number is called,'" Melvin later recalled. "That's all you can ask out of a player, and then he comes in and wins the game in extra innings."
Oakland's 3-2 victory over the Yankees in 11 innings made a hero out of Canha, who delivered the go-ahead run with a single off New York righty Johnny Barbato with two outs, helping the A's improve to 5-3 in one-run games.
Last year, their fifth one-run win didn't come until June 16.
"We know we can win them this year," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "Last year, we got off to such a bad start in close games that it started to become, 'Well, they're gonna get us at some point,' or, 'Man, we're really going to have to get lucky to win this close game.' But I think tonight it showed that we know we can win in these close games."
It was just the second hit of the season for Canha and first in nearly two weeks. Before drawing a pinch-hit at-bat in a tough assignment against Yankees closer Andrew Miller in the ninth inning, Canha hadn't even stepped to the plate in a game since April 12; at-bats have been tough to come by for platoon players of his sort.
Miller quickly retired Canha on three pitches for a strikeout, and Canha admitted after the game, "I wasn't seeing his slider. It felt like it just dropped out of the air.
"He's a tough guy to come in against, but then I think you have at-bats like that sometimes, and it kind of locks you in to the next one. You know what you have to do to see the ball better, and I made an adjustment for the next one, and I think it helped."
So does a strong work ethic that never wavers, no matter Canha's role.
"I hit a lot in the cage during the game," he said. "I've been working on stuff for the past week for moments like this. That's all I do. I'm a workhorse kind of guy, and I like to get in there and take a lot of swings."
Canha fell behind Barbato, 0-2, just as he had done against Miller, before sending a sharp grounder through the left side of the infield to bring home Jed Lowrie, whose one-out double in the inning capped a four-hit night.
"That's one of the best bullpens in baseball right there," Vogt said. "He did a great job coming through 0-2 like that, handling a great pitch and hitting it where they're not."
"It's not like I gave him a day at the beach with his first at-bat," Melvin said, "but we've seen him come up big for us before."
For Canha, he was simply staying true to this word.
"Bob's a player's manager, everybody loves him, and he just wanted to make sure my head's right because I haven't played for a while," he said of their conversation. "I'm fine with that role. I'm never going to be the type that complains about playing time, that's what I told him, and I'm just going to hang in there and go for it when I get my shot and try to make the most of the opportunities I get."