Kyle McCann

McCann's epic homer lifts A's to huge series victory vs. Orioles

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Kyle McCann capped off the Athletics’ 10-game East Coast road trip in clutch fashion, hitting a go-ahead two-run home run off Baltimore Orioles ​​closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning Sunday to give Oakland a 7-6 win and series victory at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The rookie showcased a cold bat drop, too.

“Yeah, I knew he was gonna challenge me with some heaters, so I was waiting for a pitch that I could get,” McCann said about his timely at-bat against Kimbrel, who the A’s also bested on Friday. “He wasn't really around the zone in the beginning, so I was gonna take until I got a strike. And then once I got that strike, it was battle time and I kept waiting for maybe a curve ball. But I put my mind to the heater and I was able to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it there.”

McCann’s second homer of the 2024 MLB season also earned him a Gatorade bath.

McCann continues to make the most of his limited opportunities, improving his batting average to .313 over 16 at-bats and three starts. After being selected 134th by Oakland in the 2019 MLB Draft and recording 1,276 at-bats in the minors, McCann is making a name for himself in the A’s young clubhouse.

Oakland manager Mark Kotsay stressed how crucial it was for McCann to step up when he did and highlighted the energy the team had afterward -- which was enough for the A’s to pull out the win.

“For him, that at-bat, it says just so much about his maturity,” Kotsay told reporters after Oakland’s win. “To take that type of at-bat where you get a full count [and] foul off three pitches against one of the best closers in the game, and then, you know, hit a home run and get the result. Pretty special moment for him, but also for the team. I mean, you could see the energy, it was electric in the dugout and obviously the guys were fired up and it was a great moment for Mac.”

The 26-year-old catcher delivered when the A’s needed it most but also put a bow on an impressive road trip.

Oakland began its trek on the wrong end sweep of a three-game sweep against the Cleveland Guardians and later split a four-game series with the New York Yankees. Taking the three-game series over the Orioles was huge for the soon-to-be-home A’s, as it’s their first series win in five tries. 

Kotsay, who managed Oakland on Sunday without big-name A’s in Zack Gelof (left oblique strain) and Mason Miller (rest), applauded his team for its resilience.

“You start out with getting swept and you know what you got in front of you with the Yankees and the Orioles -- basically, the beasts of the East,” Kotsay highlighted. “To come out of here [with] a 4-6 trip after dropping three, it’s quite an accomplishment in my eyes. And to have a winning series here against a really good team feels good.”

Kotsay got everything from his guys to end the weekend, but especially from the pitching staff.

Lucas Erceg led Oakland’s dominant bullpen on Sunday by replacing Miller as closer and earned his first career save. He punched out Balitomore’s Jorge Mateo, Gunnar Henderson, and Adley Rutschman on 12 pitches -- six four-seamers and a mix of sinkers, changeups and sliders -- that averaged 96.1 mph.

Kyle Muller, T.J. McFarland and Austin Adams also combined to toss a scoreless four innings, making up for starter Paul Blackburn’s unusually poor game, in which he allowed six earned runs in four innings.

“Without that type of performance from Kyle today, we wouldn't have had that opportunity,” Kotsay added. “You know, Adam's coming in and getting out that inning. And then obviously T.J.'s inning, I mean, you can talk … about the whole bullpen.

“But Lucas Erceg, this kid's come so far from last season when we got him from Milwaukee [and] put him in the bullpen. Started out a little bit shaky this year and you can see just the confidence building each outing. He obviously threw the ball great in New York. And with Mason not available today, the job he did for his first career save is pretty awesome.”

The A’s, all things considered, are playing good baseball. Oakland has earned big-time wins over the Yankees, Orioles and Texas Rangers -- three of MLB’s World Series favorites from the AL -- and is on a much better pace than a year ago.

If it weren’t for their challenges with the Guardians, the A’s would be that much better record-wise.

Nevertheless, the A’s are 12-17. They started 12-45 during the 2023 season.

“I feel like our vibes have been high all year, really,” Blackburn concluded. “Being able to come into a place like this on a very long road trip against a really good team against one of the best closers to kind of do it all time … take two out of three from them, it's outstanding for us. Just the way that we've kind of battled back, in general, this year, we never feel like we're out of it. 

“No one's getting down no matter how much we're down or how the tides are turning.”

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