The A’s handed out figurines of third-base coach Mike Gallego to fans on Sunday, complete with a wind-up mechanism that set Gallego’s right arm in motion as if waving home a runner. Manager Bob Melvin seized the opportunity to start his postgame news conference with a joke.
“I almost brought my Mike Gallego windmill toy with me,” Melvin said, grinning, “but I couldn’t get him out of the box ’cause his arm was still moving.”
The A’s 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians ended with the real Gallego whirling his arm furiously as Sam Fuld rounded third base on Mark Canha’s two-out double in the bottom of the 10th inning. As decisions go for Gallego, it was a relatively easy send. The speedy Fuld, running from first base, scored easily on Canha’s drive off the bottom of the wall in left-center field, giving the A’s their fourth walk-off win of the season.
It has been a difficult two weeks for the A’s, who lost several veteran members of their clubhouse to trades and had dropped eight of 11 games entering Sunday, including the first two games of this series against the Indians while totaling three hits. But they’ve started August on a better note with consecutive wins, lifted Sunday by a player who surely was eager to put July behind him.
Canha entered Sunday with two hits in 26 at-bats since the All-Star break, and he entered the game in the fifth inning after A’s right fielder Josh Reddick was removed because of lower back tightness. Canha’s first at-bat came with two outs and the bases loaded in a 1-1 game – and he popped out on the infield to end the fifth.
Typically, Melvin gives players plenty of notice before bringing them off the bench in mid-game, but the suddenness of Reddick’s departure meant Canha was taken somewhat by surprise. Melvin said the A’s do enough in-game substitutions that “guys are ready for it. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy – and it’s not an easy guy that (Canha) has to face to get that game-winning hit, either.”
With the score still tied in the 10th, Fuld lined a two-out single back up the middle against Indians closer Cody Allen. Canha then worked his count to 3-1 before driving a fastball into the gap in left-center field. It was the first walk-off hit in the majors for Canha, who said he went into the at-bat just trying to “get to a fastball” from the hard-throwing Allen.
“I’ve been getting jammed a lot lately, so I’ve just kind of shortened everything up,” said Canha. “Just tried to get a barrel on it and see what happens, and it worked out.”
With Reddick in the clubhouse getting treatment for his back, A’s catcher Stephen Vogt shoved the celebratory whipped-cream pie in the face of Canha, who also was doused by two players with a cooler of Gatorade.
“It’s pretty violent, actually,” Canha said of the celebration. “Felt like a punch in the face almost.”
Reddick, meanwhile, said he probably tweaked his back while racing into the Cleveland bullpen to make a catch in the top of the fifth, twisting awkwardly to avoid the Indians’ bench and a ballboy sitting in the area. He then felt it “sting” while he jogged back to the dugout after the inning was over.
After the game, Reddick said he felt “a lot better than when it initially happened” and that he thinks the issue is “nothing serious, hopefully something day-to-day.” Melvin said the A’s co-RBI leader likely won’t play in Monday’s series opener against Baltimore, a game the A’s enter on a much higher note than when this weekend began.
Despite strong outings from starters Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman in the first two games against the Indians, the A’s offense was stymied in losses of 3-1 and 2-1. But they did not waste equally good starts from Aaron Brooks, who made his A’s debut Saturday in a 5-1 win, and Sonny Gray, who admittedly battled control problems Sunday but held the Indians to one run in seven innings.
The A’s bullpen contributed three scoreless innings Sunday, and Fuld, who also struggled in July with a .174 average, started the game-winning rally with his two-out single. When Gallego saw the trajectory of Canha’s double, he said, he was glad it was Fuld running.
“They played the wall perfectly, and it’s still going to be close,” Gallego said. “But it’s always nice to have Sammy on the basepaths. Anytime there’s a base hit, you’ve got a good chance of sending him.
“That’s the way to end the story right there,” added Gallego, just before leaving the A’s clubhouse carrying two boxes of wind-up toys. “Perfect ending to a perfect day.”