OAKLAND -– A’s manager Bob Melvin doesn’t hesitate to call on his battle-tested veteran relievers, but his trip to the mound in the top of the sixth set in motion a sequence that turned Sunday’s game in the Yankees’ favor.
With two outs and two men on, Melvin replaced starter Jesse Hahn with John Axford to face switch hitter Mark Teixeira. Axford proceeded to give up two run-scoring singles that erased a one-run A’s lead and put the Yankees ahead for good in their 5-4 victory at the Coliseum.
With that the Yankees completed just their second four-game sweep of the A’s in Oakland. The first came in July 1979. The loss completed a deflating weekend for the A’s, who were coming off a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers when the Yankees arrived. Key injuries to Josh Reddick and Sonny Gray, combined with the sweep by the Bombers, have completely reversed the mojo the A’s had going when their seven-game homestand began.
Had Melvin’s sixth-inning call to the bullpen been executed with no runs scoring, no one would have thought twice about the decision. But the turn of events typified the way this series went for the home team.
The A’s had just gone ahead in the bottom of the fifth on Stephen Vogt’s two-run double to give Oakland a 3-2 lead. But New York’s two runs in the sixth stole the momentum right back. The Yankees added a run off Sean Doolittle in the seventh.
The A’s fought back with a run off lefty reliever Andrew Miller in the eighth, but Aroldis Chapman came in with his 100-plus mile per hour heat to close the door and seal it for the Yankees.
The Yankees came in just 5-12 on the road, one of the worst marks in the majors, but the A’s made them feel quite at home.
Starting pitching report
Hahn gave up solo homers to Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury in the first three innings, but he took the mound in the sixth looking to protect a 3-2 lead and notch his second major league victory of 2016. The two runs scored off Axford were charged to Hahn (1-2), so his final line read four runs allowed over 5 2/3 innings. He gave up six hits, struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
Daniel Coulombe, promoted before the game when Gray went on the Disabled list, threw two scoreless innings after the Yankees did their damage against Axford and Doolittle.
At the plate
Vogt’s two-out two-run double in the fifth off Michael Pineda (2-5) sparked the A’s briefly. Then after they fell behind 5-3, they had a chance to get right back in it with runners on the corners and no outs in the eighth against Miller. but Danny Valencia struck out, Billy Butler’s RBI groundout cut it to 5-4, but pinch hitter Khris Davis grounded out to end the threat.
In the field
In hindsight, perhaps Coghlan should have eaten the ball on Teixeira’s game-tying single in the sixth, but you can’t fault the effort he made on the two-out play. Coghlan went up the middle for the ball and had to make a long throw across his body back to first base. Teixeira beat the throw pretty easily, and it allowed Gardner to speed around third and tie the game.
The wind and the sun made fly balls an adventure early in the game, as Gardner had trouble tracking Marcus Semien’s deep fly to left that went over his head for a double. And then, the consecutive errors from Gregorius and Castro in the eighth cracked the door open for the A’s.
A crowd of 25,237 was on hand for the series finale.
The A’s head north for a quick three-game road trip to Seattle, which leads the AL West by 1 1/2 games over Texas. Monday — Rich Hill (6-3, 2.54) vs. Taijuan Walker (2-3, 2.95), 7:10 p.m. Tuesday — Kendall Graveman (1-6, 5.48) vs. Nathan Karns (4-1, 3.33), 7:10 p.m. The A’s have yet to announce who will pitch in Sonny Gray’s place in Wednesday’s 7:10 p.m. game. Hisashi Iwakuma (2-4, 4.39) goes for the Mariners. All three games air on CSN California.