The Oakland Athletics are getting accustomed to marathon extra innings games this season, and they improved their record to 2-0 in contests that lasted 18 innings when Nate Freiman knocked in the winning run five and a half hours after the first pitch was thrown to give the A’s a 3-2 win and a sweep over the New York Yankees.
Oakland has now won 11 home games in a row, although this one was in doubt several times.
Jesse Chavez earned the win, throwing 5.2 innings with only one hit, two walks and seven strikeouts after entering the game in the 13th inning.
The starters were on point as well. Jarrod Parker and Hiroki Kuroda matched efforts to allow only seven hits and four runs through the first eight innings of play, with all of the runs coming in the first three innings.
Parker gave up a lead off double to Brett Gardner, and after retiring Jason Nix, he left a fastball over the plate for Robinson Cano, who crushed it to the luxury boxes in center field to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead:
Parker settled down after the rocky start, as he typically does after surrendering runs in the opening frame, and the A’s came back to tie the game in the bottom of the third. Chris Young drew a lead off walk, and Eric Sogard singled on a line drive to right field to put two men on with no outs.
Both baserunners stole a bag to get into scoring position with Derek Norris at bat, and the hero from Monday night brought Young home on an RBI groundout to make it 2-1. Sogard attempted to steal third but was easily thrown out by Chris Stewart, who had a clear path to throw with the left-handed John Jaso at the plate.
Jaso drew a walk to extend the inning, and Seth Smith hit a shot to the right field wall that gave him enough time to reach home. Cano corralled Ichiro’s relay throw and delivered the ball in time for Stewart, but he applied the tag with his glove while holding the ball in his right hand to allow home plate umpire CB Bucknor to call Jaso safe:
With the game tied, both pitchers went into shutdown mode. Parker allowed three more baserunners, but none threatened to score, and Kuroda recovered after the third inning scoring outburst to retire the next 16 Oakland batters.
Parker handed the ball over to Grant Balfour in the top of the ninth, having thrown 108 pitches with five hits, two strikeouts and two walks. Balfour retired the side to give the A’s a chance to win it in the bottom of the frame.
Kuroda was relieved in the bottom of the ninth by David Robertson, having given up only two hits with three strikeouts and two walks on 103 pitches.
Robertson gave up a lead off single to Jaso, and after striking out Smith, he surrendered a single to left field by Jed Lowrie that put runners on the corners for Josh Donaldson. The third basemen struck out in five pitches, and Robertson needed only three to strike out Brandon Moss and get out of the jam to send the game into extra innings.
Ryan Cook took over for Balfour in the 10th, and after Ichiro got on board with a two-out single and stole second, Cook struck out Stewart, and the A’s couldn’t gain any traction in the bottom of the frame.
Jerry Blevins took the mound in the 11th, and Gardner laid down a bunt that the left-hander threw past Adam Rosales at first to allow to the New York center fielder to advance to second. Nix laid down a sacrifice bunt in the next at-bat to move Gardner to third, and Blevins intentionally walked Cano before hitting Mark Teixeira to load the bases.
From there, Blevins struck out Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis to end the best scoring chance of the game up to that point for the Yankees. The A’s were shut down by Adam Warren in their at-bats, and Pat Neshek worked through the 12th with Warren continuing to stifle Oakland’s hitters in that frame as well.
The Yankees threatened again in the 13th against Hideki Okajima. Cano sparked a rally with a lead off double to the right field corner, leading to an intentional walk for Teixeira. Okajima induced Hafner to fly out for the first out of the inning, and Jesse Chavez was brought in to stop the bleeding.
Chavez struck out Youkilis, and Vernon Wells succumbed to the same fate to leave two more Yankees on base, bringing the extra innings total of stranded baserunners to eight.
Things seemed to be looking up for Oakland’s chances when Josh Reddick led off the bottom of the 13th with a single to center field, but Young popped out on a bunt attempt in the next at-bat and Warren easily retired Rosales and Norris to move the game along.
Chavez gave up a single to Ichiro to start off the 14th, and Stewart laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second. Following a walk to Gardner, Lyle Overbay was brought in to pinch hit and popped out to third. After a first pitch strike to Cano, Chavez threw three balls and issued a fourth on purpose to load the bases for Teixeira, who hit a pop fly that was caught by Lowrie to make it five straight innings of New York leaving men on base.
Chavez returned for the 15th and retired the side, and the door was again wedged open for the A’s to make a move.
Brandon Moss got on board with a one-out single to right field, and he reached second on a wild pitch by Warren. Josh Reddick then worked his way back from an 0-2 count to draw a seven-pitch walk, and Melvin brought in Coco Crisp to pinch hit for Young.
Crisp immediately drove the first pitch he saw to shallow left field, but Vernon Wells was able to snag it off the bounce and quickly throw out Moss at the plate to keep the game going. It was a perfect throw that landed in Stewart’s glove just in time for the catcher to sustain the hit delivered by Moss, and it was a great effort to hold on to the ball for the out.
Crisp ended up at second on the play and Reddick moved to third with Rosales up to bat, but the second basemen struck out looking to send the game into the 16th inning.
Melvin brought in some fresh blood along with Crisp at that point, taking out Donaldson and moving Moss to third to make room for Freiman at first. Chavez made quick work of the Yankees and walked back to the dugout to cheers from the remaining fans at the Coliseum.
Smith gave them some hope in the bottom of the 16th when he singled to right with two outs, and Lowrie drew a walk to put two men on for Freiman, but the rookie lined out to end the rally.
Chavez pitched through the 18th without incident, and when Jaso hit a one-out single in the bottom of the 18th, Joe Girardi went to Mariano Rivera in the bullpen, but he gave up a single to Smith that advanced Jaso to third.
After intentionally walking Lowrie to load the bases, Freiman knocked in the winning run on a single to left to give the A’s a 3-2 victory. It was likely the final appearance for Rivera in Oakland as he’s due to retire after this season, but there’s always the possibility of the two teams meeting in the playoffs.
It was the longest day game in Oakland history, and the first time an AL team played two games past 18 innings in the same season since 1971 according to A’s Information Manager Mike Selleck.
With the win, the A’s are one and a half games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Oakland is back in action against the Seattle Mariners tomorrow night at the Coliseum, with Tommy Milone set to pitch against Joe Saunders.