OAKLAND –- The A’s pushed back against the typical storyline this season and gave the home fans an unexpected treat Thursday.
They showed offensive life in fighting back from a three-run deficit and then the bullpen managed to close out a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees in the opener of a four-game series at the Coliseum.
So often the A’s have failed to convert on scoring opportunities. Numerous times, the relief corps hasn’t been able to polish off a victory. It all came together in satisfying fashion for an A’s team team that came in with a 6-16 record in its home ballpark.
A solo homer from Billy Burns and a two-run shot from Brett Lawrie pulled the A’s into a 3-3 tie, then they broke through for two runs against CC Sabathia (2-7) and the Yankees bullpen and made it stand.
Kendall Graveman went 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs, a decent follow-up to his excellent outing last weekend in his return from the minors. Closer Tyler Clippard gave up an RBI double to Brett Gardner in the ninth that made it a one-run game, but he retired Chase Headley on a fly to center to finish it off.
Starting pitching report
Graveman allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked two. Brian McCann connected on a solo homer in the second. In the fourth, Alex Rodriguez scored on a close play at the plate on McCann’s single, a call that was reversed via replay after Rodriguez origninaly was called out.
Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly in the fifth made it 3-0.
Fernando Abad came on in the sixth with two aboard and retired Didi Gregorius to end that threat. Evan Scribner turned in 1 2/3 sharp innings to get the lead to Clippard in the ninth. Clippard allowed a two-out walk and Gardner’s RBI double, but registered his fifth save.
At the plate
Billy Burns hit just two homers in parts of five seasons in the minors, but he’s now hit two in the past five games. The switch-hitter turned on the first pitch he saw from CC Sabathia in the fifth and lined it over the left field wall. His first career homer Sunday came from the left side, this one was right-handed. Then in the sixth, Lawrie tied it 3-3 with a two-run homer to left off Sabathia. It was a rare power display, as the A’s came in with just four homers against lefties all season, second-fewest in the American League.
The A’s wasted a bases-loaded opportunity in the third. But with the game tied in the seventh, they cashed in with the bags full. Ben Zobrist worked a one-out walk against reliever David Carpenter to put the A’s ahead, then Billy Butler added a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.
Even though neither of those seventh-inning runs came via a base hit, it was encouraging stuff for a team that entered the night 0 for its last 25 with runners in scoring position.
In the field
Graveman would have completed six full had the A’s been able to complete an inning-ending double play in the top of the sixth. But after taking the throw at second from Ben Zobrist, Marcus Semien’s relay to first sailed into the first base dugout for his 18th error of the season. To put it in perspective, Toronto’s Jose Reyes committed 19 errors all of last season, and that total led A.L. shortstops. Graveman walked Chris Young following that play to put two runners aboard with two outs, and manager Bob Melvin called upon Abad to finish the inning.
Burns, after muscling up at the plate, made a smooth running catch at the wall in deep center in the sixth. It was one of his better efforts going back on a ball since coming up from the minors.
Just 21,795 showed for Stephen Vogt bobblehead night and the first game with the Yankees in town. With the Warriors dominating headlines, the A’s scuffling and the Giants also playing at home, this series has gotten lost in the shuffle a bit.
After taking a comebacker off his right ankle in his last outing, Sonny Gray (5-2, 1.77) says he’s OK for Friday night’s start. He’ll oppose lefty Chris Capuano (0-2, 7.36). First pitch is 7:05 pm.