OAKLAND – After lining the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th Sunday, Mark Canha wound up on the receiving end of some pretty hard contact too.
Surely the A’s outfielder knew the whipped cream pie to the face was coming after the first walkoff hit of his career. He just didn’t brace himself for the impact.
“It’s pretty violent actually,” Canha said after Stephen Vogt smashed him with the celebratory pastry. “It felt like a punch in the face.”
Just another learning experience for the rookie, who entered Sunday’s game in the fifth for the injured Josh Reddick and doubled home Sam Fuld in the 10th to give the A’s a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Canha, a San Jose native who played at Cal, is walking the path of many Rule 5 draft picks before him. He’s remained on the A’s 25-man roster all season, because if he doesn’t, he must be offered back to the Miami Marlins. But his playing time has been sporadic, partly because of his inexperience and partly because his numbers have been so out of whack.
Acquired by the A’s as a right-handed hitter expected to provide punch against lefties, Canha has instead enjoyed his greatest success against right-handed pitchers. He entered Sunday hitting .269 (42-for-156) against right-handers with 17 of his 18 extra-base hits against righties. Versus lefties, he carried the lowest average in the majors at .143 (11-for-77).
Sunday’s game-winning hit not surprisingly came off another righty, reliever Cody Allen, on a 3-1 fastball that Canha drilled off the wall in left-center. He was in a 2-for-28 rut since the All-Star break with no extra-base hits and one RBI before that at-bat.
He’s had to learn to adjust to not playing every day.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” Canha said. “But I’m perfectly willing, whatever role I get, to help out wherever I can. But yeah, it’s new for me. Just be ready to play, that’s kind of been my slogan.”
The outfield mix is about to get very interesting for the A’s, with Coco Crisp coming off the disabled list any day now. He’s expected to start taking the majority of at-bats in left field. The belief is Oakland will send down either Max Muncy or Jake Smolinski to clear a roster spot for Crisp. If Muncy is optioned, the A’s will have five outfielders plus Canha, who primarily has played left field or first base.
Innings could be tough to come by, which is why the A’s have had Canha taking grounders at third base recently. With no true backup middle infielder on the current 25-man roster, Brett Lawrie is the backup to second baseman Eric Sogard. And if Lawrie is needed at second, Canha might have to sub in at third base, where he’s appeared in just one game this year.
But in a season when he can’t really be sure when his playing time will come, expect Canha to be ready when called upon. He entered Sunday’s game on short notice when Reddick hurt his back. After popping out in his first two at-bats, Canha came through in the 10th against Allen to help the A’s salvage a split of a four-game series.
“Coming off the bench, it’s a tough spot,” Reddick said. “For Mark to pick us up with that walk-off is something special.”