The Yankees pitching staff has very little margin for error these days, and when Mariano Rivera finally gave up a run in the 18th inning, it sent the Yankees to a 3-2 loss that completed an A’s sweep in Oakland and left last weekend in Seattle feeling like a long lost memory of long gone better days. The heart of the Yankees order blew three prime scoring opportunities in extra innings, and Nate Freiman made them pay with a walk-off single off the last available reliever who hadn’t pitched the past two nights.
Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youklis and Vernon Wells combined to go 0-for-28 with 12 strikeouts, and they were at their very worst when given a chance to take a late lead. Hafner and Youkilis struck out to strand the bases loaded in the 11th. Hafner flied out, and Youkilis and Wells struck out to strand two more runners in the 13th. Teixeira popped out to leave the bases loaded in the 14th. Hafner, Youkilis and Wells went down in order in the 15th, then did the same in the 18th.
Brett Gardner started the game with a double, and two batters later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer. In five pitches, the Yankees had snapped a five-game homerless streak and matched their extra-base hit total for the previous three games combined. But as soon as the offense arrived, it disappeared again. In the next nine innings, the Yankees got only two more runners into scoring position, and they never again had two runners on base in the same inning until that blown opportunity in the 11th.
The A’s came back to tie the game in the third, scoring one run on a ground out and another on a double, when the throw home beat the play but Chris Stewart pulled the ball out of his glove in the process of applying the tag. After the play at the plate, Kuroda retired the next 16 in a row and finished with two runs on two hits through eight innings. Adam Warren pitched six scoreless, getting help when Stewart held onto the ball through a vicious collision for the second out of the 15th. It was a stunning play that only delayed the inevitable.
Associated Press photo