OAKLAND -- In the span of a year, Mark Canha has gone from part-time player to an integral piece of an A’s club that finds itself holding a playoff spot. He’s even reached the point of getting his own T-shirt giveaway, with shirts that featured Canha and the words “Hometown
OAKLAND -- In the span of a year, Mark Canha has gone from part-time player to an integral piece of an A’s club that finds itself holding a playoff spot. He’s even reached the point of getting his own T-shirt giveaway, with shirts that featured Canha and the words “Hometown Hero” pictured on the front. Those shirts were given out on Wednesday, and Canha lived up to the slogan.
With Canha heading to the plate following an intentional walk to Matt Olson that put runners at first and second with two outs, the crowd of 16,714 fans at the Coliseum began to use the shirts as a rallying cry by waving them in the air. Perhaps it served as an energy boost for Canha, who fouled off a couple of tough pitches before he found a 1-2 sinker to his liking from Royals reliever Jesse Hahn and provided the heroics with an 11th-inning walk-off double to seal a 1-0 victory.
• Box score
“They were doing it in the outfield a little bit,” Canha said of the shirt waving. “It was cool. A fun day. It’s pretty awesome. I couldn’t have written a better story myself.”
Oakland’s lead for the top Wild Card spot remained at two games over the Rays, who beat the Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Once the A’s took over the first AL Wild Card spot last week, the objective became clear: Win each of their final five series remaining in the regular season.
Series victories the rest of the way would likely give the A’s the chance to host the Wild Card Game. They took care of business with a sweep of the Rangers over the weekend, and with a huge assist from Homer Bailey’s stellar outing against the Royals on Wednesday, another series win is in the bag.
“At the very least, we needed to win this series here,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The [Royals] played us tough. They pitched tough. You could see they were attacking some weak points. It’s not like we’re immune to having offensive woes at times. That’s when you just have to stay with it. The pitching did their end and we ended up getting some big hits to win a couple of games.”
Bailey’s season-high 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless frames were not enough to earn him a win as Royals starter Danny Duffy matched his zeroes, but the strong outing kept the game scoreless while the A’s sorted out their offensive struggles until logging their 10th walk-off victory of the season.
Since joining the A’s via trade on July 16, Bailey has provided consistency for the better part of 12 outings with his new club. After a shaky beginning to his Oakland tenure, the right-hander is now 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last seven starts.
The signature pitch in Bailey’s arsenal is his splitter. It’s been the key to his success in his time with Oakland and it looked about as good as it has all year on Wednesday, as he threw the split for 30 of his 95 pitches and generated 11 swings and misses with it. All 11 strikeouts were swinging, with six punchouts coming on that same splitter.
“Homer's much more consistent with his split now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of his former player. “He doesn't miss much to lefties. Curveball was good. He spotted his fastball extremely well. I didn't see him miss a location all day long.”
The Royals are on pace to lose 100 games, but having played in Kansas City this season before his trade to Oakland, Bailey knows better than to be fooled by the bad record. Facing a lineup that includes Jorge Soler, who is tied for the AL home run lead, and All-Star Whit Merrifield is never an easy task.
“I don’t think their record explains their team as well,” Bailey said. “They’re still finding their way, but their top five or six guys in their lineup are nothing to slouch about. You look at the record, you can’t take them lightly, because they’ll put up some runs.”
With nine games remaining, Melvin won’t bother to use the ‘too early to scoreboard watch’ excuse anymore. This late in the year, everyone in the A’s clubhouse is checking up on the Rays and Indians, the two clubs trailing them in the Wild Card standings.
“It’s a lot of fun this time of year. I’m even watching the scoreboard now,” Melvin said. “The finish line is in sight and each game is more important. Guys step up and it’s a different animal right now. We know our work is cut out for us and guys are just trying to win every game.”
Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.