One streak died on Friday night in Oakland, another survived, but more important to the overall picture, a losing streak was born.
When last the Yankees visited Oakland, they thumped the A’s in three straight games, and I spent a lot of time making fun of them in the one recap I wrote, comparing them to a minor league team as I shamelessly listed Oakland batting averages from one to nine, laughing all the way.
Things are different now. (For one thing, Yoenis Cespedes was on the disabled list during that series back in May. He’s been healthy and punishing Yankee pitching during this series, but more on him later.)
Early in the game a preposterous graphic popped up beneath Yankee starter Iván Nova. According to said graphic, not only did Nova lead the league in extra base hits allowed, he apparently led by a wide margin — 61 extras compared to the second place hurler who had only surrendered 49.
I was so baffled by this, that I spoke aloud to the television. “That can’t possibly be true.”
And here’s where things got a bit strange. Nova paused during his warm-ups, waited for the camera to zoom tight, then, as if he were Woody Allen or Ferris Bueller, he turned and looked directly into the camera… and answered me. Surely you noticed it, too.
“You don’t think I can give up extra base hits?” he asked. “Just watch me.”
With two outs in the first, he gave up a double to Josh Reddick, but recovered to escape the inning without allowing a run. In the third, there was a leadoff triple yielded to Coco Crisp, who scored the game’s first run on a Jemile Weeks sacrifice fly. The fourth inning opened with a Brandon Moss double, followed by a Brandon Inge double (Double Brandon doubles?) to double the lead to two.
Guess what happened in the fifth? Another leadoff double, this time to Reddick, but Nova survived that inning without allowing a run. He wouldn’t, however, survive the seventh, leaving after two outs with a deceptive line: only two runs allowed, but nine hits — five for extra bases.
Even so, Nova’s night would’ve been good enough for a win in any of the previous forty-three games, but on Friday night the fearsome Tommy “May Day” Milone was on the hill for the A’s, and the Yanks never got a sniff against him. He cruised through the first three innings, allowing just a harmless single to Curtis Granderson in the first.
Only twice in Milone’s seven innings were the Yankees able to put two runners on in an inning. The first instance was in the fourth, but it lasted only about ten seconds. Mark Teixeira singled with one out, and when Alex Rodríguez followed immediately with a soft single to right, third base coach Robby Thompson inexplicably started windmilling Teixeira around second and into third. To everyone in the stadium, aside from Thompson, I suppose, the outcome was never in doubt. The ball arrived two strides before Teixeira did, and the rally was dead.
Milone struck out the side in the fifth, then found a bit of trouble in the sixth. Derek Jeter reached on an infield single with one out, and one out later Teixeira moved him to second on a single of his own. A-Rod came up with an opportunity to change this recap, but instead he bounced into a fielder’s choice to third.
Millone did yield a somewhat questionable single to Robinson Canó leading off the seventh, but he set down the next three hitters — the last two on strikes — to finish off his night.
How good was Milone? He had been pitching well over his previous five starts, but nothing like this. Seven innings, six hits, ten strikeouts, and nothing else. I’m sure you remember the last time an Athletics pitcher struck out ten or more Yankees without allowing a run. It was ninety-nine years ago when Eddie Plank turned the trick.
And so it all came down to the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 2-1. (Russell Martin had homered in the eighth.) When Canó validated his twenty-three-game hitting streak by leading off with a line drive that barely cleared the wall in left field to tie the score at two, everything seemed possible. There was life in the dugout, and suddenly it looked like the Yankees might steal a win in Oakland… I’ll give you a second to recover after reading that last phrase… and in doing so they’d extend that other quirky streak.
As the game rolled over to the bottom of the ninth, I convinced myself that it would happen. I should’ve known better, and the YES producers quickly reminded me by sliding one cold-water graphic after another up on the screen. First there was this: The Yankees are 0-30 and the only major league team without a win after trailing in the ninth inning or later. Next: The Oakland A’s have 9 walk-off wins, most in the major leagues.
Josh Reddick struck out swinging, but the rest of the night went like this: single, single, single, dog pile. (Cespedes, Jonny Gomes, and Brandon Moss, if you must know.) A’s 3, Yankees 2.
A new streak starts tomorrow.
[Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP Photo]