With both the A’s and the Giants in contention for the playoffs and with the All-Star break coming up, Saturday night’s game felt more like it belonged in October than in July.
The Giants batted for their starting pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, in the bottom of the fourth inning to take advantage of a runner on third base, the sort of early move that managers rarely make outside of a must-win game. Pinch hitter Austin Slater rewarded the Giants with an RBI single, which prompted the A’s to pull their starter, Brett Anderson, after 3⅓ innings. Those quick hooks were just the start of aggressive moves by managers who showed they were willing to go deep into their bullpens, knowing the importance of the game and that their staffs will soon get a rest.
In the end, the Giants used six pitchers, including Derek Holland, who is ordinarily in the starting rotation. Ty Blach, who has started 12 games for the Giants this season, came in to pitch the ninth. The A’s used four pitchers, and the two teams combined to use five pinch hitters in the battle to find even a little tactical advantage in what turned out to be a tight, 4-3 win for the A’s that tied up the series between the cross-Bay rivals.
Base runners tried to stretch their hits into extra bags, and three players successfully stole bases, while one was caught in the attempt. A’s third base coach Matt Williams sent Matt Chapman home on a short fly to right field in the second inning and found a run when Andrew McCutchen’s throw was up the first base line.
Even the windy, foggy, cold night felt like fall, and the teams’ fans dueled with chants that echoed in a vibrant AT&T Park.
In the end, A’s All-Star closer Blake Treinen battled through a 23-pitch ninth and struck out Giants All-Star starter Brandon Crawford to wrap up the win.
“When we have a full bullpen, we can go at it early,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s a significant bullpen. … When we get a lead, we feel pretty good about it.”
The two stars of the bullpen Saturday night for the A’s were former Giant Yusmeiro Petit, who went 2.2 innings and gave up just two hits, and Lou Trivino, the team’s eighth-inning man, who was — again — fantastic.
“Trivino has really made us who we are now,” Melvin said. “When we got Trivino and put him in that eighth inning role, it’s been a different bullpen since. … He’s a killer out there.”
Oakland has thrived all season in the seventh inning, and it was their friend once again as pinch-hitter Mark Canha absolutely launched a ball over the left field wall for a two-run home run that give his team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Canha said that home run is probably his favorite of his career and said the feeling after he hit it and just knew it went out was pure elation.
“I haven’t played well here in the past, AT&T Park, that is, and it was just nice,” Canha said. “Growing up in San Jose and being a Giants fans and coming to all those games as a kid, it was nice to finally pop one given the situation. I was excited.
“…It’s just going to be fun to go brag to all my Giants friends to say I did that after having a lot of great childhood memories here.”
Canha said he told himself he was going to take a pitch and just get into a kind of rhythm for how San Francisco reliever Tony Watson was going to pitch to him, and “(I) got into a count where I feel like I somewhat knew what was coming.”
Melvin noted that Canha has been making the most out of every opportunity the team has given him, but it was that home run — Canha’s first career homer as a pinch hitter and his 11th on the season — way up in the left field bleachers that was the game-changer.
“That’s a pretty significant homer,” Melvin said. “It’s cold, and you hope you just get it over the fence, and he hit it more than halfway up.”
Canha’s post-homer celebration drew some ire from fans who questioned whether he yelled “my house” or “let’s go” after killing that ball and who didn’t appreciate what they considered to be a bat flip.
“I’m sure a lot of San Franciscans are offended by that, and I’m sorry,” he said.
Then he added: “I’m not sorry. I’m not really sorry.”
A version of this article originally appeared here.