As I mentioned in the preview thread, these two teams had combined for two tight games already. It was only natural that the series finale would be a tight game too. Both Jarrod Parker and Hiroki Kuorda were on their game for the most part. It was the home run and walks, respectively, that put the only blemishes on these starters' records, with both working through 8 complete innings. Once it became a bullpen game is when it was decided.
The Yankees wasted no time scoring, taking advantage of a shaky first inning from Parker. Brett Gardner led off with a double, and remained at second after a Jayson Nix lineout. After that, Robinson Cano blasted a deep home run to center. One out and only a few minutes in, the A's trailed by 2, and fans and commenters were groaning in unison about Parker not having command. He would, however get the next two outs to limit the damage to two runs. The A's wouldn't get their first baserunner until the third inning on a Chris Young walk, after Kuroda had set down the first 6 A's in succession. Eric Sogard followed with a single, and the A's were in business with runners at first and second and nobody out. Again, the A's would take advantage of something they must have been picking up from Yankees pitchers, as Sogard and Young pulled off a no-throw double steal, and Chris Stewart simply "had to peel it and eat it", in the words of Vince Cotroneo. A Derek Norris RBI groundout would pull the A's within 1, and after that prime example of great baserunning, Sogard would pull a relatively boneheaded one. Whatever he saw the first time didn't work again, as he was thrown out trying to steal 3rd by about 5 feet. It loomed large at the time, too, as after a John Jaso walk, Seth Smith blasted a double high off the right-field wall that just barely scored Jaso. Indeed, it was at least a questionable send by the aggressive Gallego. Only a brainfart play by Stewart - tagging Jaso with his glove hand with the ball in his bare hand - allowed Jaso to score as the ball was there with plenty of time.
That's pretty much how this game would stay. Parker would allow baserunners in the 4th, 5th, and 6th but they would not advance. He pitched a clean 7th and 8th, finishing his day with 5 hits allowed, 2 walks, and 2 K's. Kuroda, meanwhile, pitched a gem after the 3rd. He retired the next 15 A's batters in order, and left only having allowed 3 hits, 2 walks, and K'ing three while getting 9 groundball outs.
Things got interesting in the 9th for the A's after Grant Balfour set down the Yankees in order in their half. Jaso had a leadoff single, and after a Smith K, David Robertson allowed another bloop single to Jed Lowrie, moving Jaso to 3rd with one out. Robertson would bear down, though, striking out Josh Donaldson on a checked swing high fastball and Brandon Moss down and in. That sent us to extras and made it a battle of two excellent bullpens.
Ryan Cook came in for the 10th to allow only a two-out single to Ichiro, and recovered after his steal of 2nd to strike out Stewart. Boone Logan pitched a perfect bottom of the 10th. Jerry Blevins came on in the top of the 11th, and allowed a bunt single to Gardner, who advanced on his error to the 2nd. A sacrifice moved him to 3rd, and the A's smartly walked Cano, but only to have it nearly backfire on them. Blevins hit Mark Teixeira to load the bases, but then got both Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis on called strikes to end the threat. After the A's went through a quiet 11th against Adam Warren, the Yankees would again threaten in the 12 with two outs against new pitcher Pat Neshek. Chris Stewart was aboard on a single and a throwing error by Lowrie advanced him to 2nd. Bob Melvin again pulled the IBB arm, and again it worked, as Neshek struck out Nix to end it.
Lather, rinse, repeat in the 13th. Cano led off with a double against Hideki Okajima and Melvin IBBed Teixeira aboard. Hafner would fly out, and Okajima was lifted for the much-maligned Jesse Chavez. Today, however, he was heroic; he struck out Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells to end the threat on 8 pitches, 5 of them swinging strikes. This was only the beginning of Chavez' heroics on the day. In the 14th, Ichiro led off with a single, and was bunted over with two strikes by Stewart, putting him in scoring position for Brett Gardner. Gardner walked, and on deck hitter Jayson Nix was lifted for Lyle Overbay. His early season magic appears to be pretty much gone, though, as he popped up to Josh Donaldson for the second out. After getting to a three-ball count on Cano (on some close pitches, mind you), Melvin again chanced it with the IBB to him and start over against Teixeira. Teixeira would pop out harmlessly to Lowrie to end the inning, and send it to the bottom of the 14th. This sequence capped off an amazing 11 men left on base for the Yankees in extra innings alone.
Chavez settled into a groove after that. On the way to compiling 7 strikeouts in his 5.2 innings of work, he set down the Yankees consecutively in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th innings. It almost seemed like after the 14th inning, they just stopped trying. Only consecutive hard-hit balls by Reid Brignac -- remember when he was a hot prospect? -- and Cano in the 17th indicated that the Yankees offense showed any signs of life. The A's, meanwhile, were being shutdown by Adam Warren, who himself pitched tremendously for New York out of the bullpen. He three 6 innings himself, and struck out 4 while allowing only 4 hits and two walks. The only real threat against him was in the 15th, when with one out, Moss singled, was wild pitched to 2nd, and then remained there after a Josh Reddick walk. That's when Bob Melvin pulled out a trump card, bringing the slightly hobbled Coco Crisp out of the dugout for what he was hoping was the game-winning pinch-hit. Batting left-handed against the righty Warren, Crisp did deliver, blooping a ball over Youkilis and towards Wells, sending Moss streaking around 3rd with the apparent winning run. It was not to be so, though, as Wells fielded the ball cleanly, and got the ball to Stewart. Moss, seeing as he would be out by 5 feet or so, collided with Stewart, who definitely had his bell rung on the play. After a short injury delay, Adam Rosales would strike out to end the threat and leave runners on 2nd and 3rd.
Crisp would remain in the game, sore heel and all, to play center with Young having been lifted for him. Not only that, but in the top of the 16th, Donaldson left with what was later described as a mild right hamstring injury. That left Melvin to deal with defensive misalignments. With Sogard already lifted for Rosales, and Donaldson now out, that shifted Moss to third and brought Freiman into the game (more on him later). To his credit, Moss has been Mr. Versatile in these late inning affairs, now having appeared at both 3B and CF this year. Freiman would actually come up in the 16th, with Smith and Lowrie on 1st and 2nd, respectively, and two outs. He sent a soft liner out to right that Ichiro appeared to initially lose in the sun, but then recovered to make a sliding catch on. In the bottom of the 17th, Crisp would single with two outs against new Yankees pitcher Preston Claiborne, but Rosales would again K, capping a golden sombrero night for him even when he didn't start the game.
In the 18th, Chavez finished his day strong, striking out Hafner and Youkilis before getting Wells to pop out. Against Claiborne in the bottom half, Norris led off with a groundout, but Jaso then went down and golfed a pitch into right for a single. This knocked Claiborne out, and brought in Mr. Class himself, Mariano Rivera. Before the game, the A's presented him with a green and gold surfboard, wine, and a donation to his foundation. Say what you will about the Yankees, their dynastic ways, or the annoying self-privilege of their fans, but no one has ever said a bad word about Rivera the man. In making his final regular-season appearance at the Coliseum, it only seemed fitting he would come in with the game on the line to a standing ovation from both A's and Yankees fans. He first faced Smith, who lofted a single into left over Youkilis' head on a famous cutter that broke his bat. Lowrie was next, who was obviously intentionally walked to face the rookie Freiman, facing a tough righty, and one he happened to grow up watching. It didn't take long, as on the second pitch he saw, he also got a cutter, also broke his bat, and also lofted a single to left, dropping it 20 feet in front of the left-fielder Wells. Jaso steamed home from third, and sent the A's team and their fans into a frenzy.
The postgame interview was spectacular. Freiman himself seemed surprised at what had just happened, and absorbed the pie and gatorade bath with aplomb. Pretty remarkable for a guy who was slated to begin toiling away in AA or AAA. I'm sure he never thought in 2013, he'd be stepping up with the bases loaded in a tie game against the Yankees in the 18th inning - let alone with the A's.
And that's all she wrote, folks. Chavez's arm notwithstanding, the A's appear to have avoided major injury in this latest marathon game. I said this on Twitter earlier, but I really do think Chavez's performance today was, all things considered, the best performance by any A's pitcher this year. Especially coming from a guy who is so maligned by the fanbase, myself included, that he's come to be known as a mop up reliever and nothing more. Certainly, Brett Anderson gave a gutsy performance on one ankle in the 19 inning game, but everyone expected him to do well. No one, I mean no one, expected that Chavez would pitch out of those jams, let alone throw 5.2 innings of relief without giving up a run. Make no mistake: today would be nothing without him.
A weary Oakland squad will take on the Mariners tomorrow at 7:05 PM. We will have any roster moves covered here on AN, along with the usual array of links, series preview Q&A, and the weekly podcast. Until then, enjoy your evening.