For many A’s players, this weekend’s series at Yankee Stadium may rekindle the Spirit of 2012. After all, it was in the Bronx last September that Bob Melvin’s club stood up to adversity and may have claimed their most meaningful victory of last season.
With 16 games left in the regular season, Oakland embarked on a three-city, 10-game road trip to three of the toughest venues for a visiting team to play—Detroit, New York and Texas. The team arrived at Yankee Stadium after dropping two of three to the Tigers, their post-season chances very much in question. Playing on the big stage before the Pinstripe Nation, the A’s battled the Yankees on even terms in the series’ first two games, both of which were decided in extra innings.
In the Friday opener, CC Sabathia and Jarod Parker locked up in a classic pitcher’s duel, Sabathia turning it over to closer Rafael Soriano in the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead. With two outs, the bases empty and little hope left, Brandon Moss shockingly uncorked an upper-deck, game-tying homer. His heroics were short lived, however. Yankee catcher Russell Martin returned the favor in the 10th with his own majestic blow off Sean Doolittle to seal an ulcerating 2-1 defeat. Saturday’s game was even more maddening. After rallying from 4-2 and 5-4 deficits, Jonny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter launched home runs in a four-run 13th-inning blitzkrieg that gave the A’s what seemed to be a commanding 9-5 lead. Wrong. Inexplicably, the Yankees somehow tied the score with four runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, with the ageless Raul Ibanez sending a Pat Neshek pitch into orbit for a two-run homer that sent the game into the 14th inning. Moments later, another ageless star—Ichiro Suzuki—plated the winning run when Eduardo Nunez reached base on an infield error.
A lesser team would have been devastated. Enduring their second straight extra-inning loss, the A’s entered Sunday’s finale having absorbed five losses in their last six games. They sat four games behind Texas in the AL West standings, sinking, with only 14 games remaining. And the raucous Yankee fans were not about to dial back the noise in sympathy. With an ominous four-game series in Arlington on the horizon, Oakland sent rookie A.J. Griffin to the mound in hopes of salvaging a game in the series to keep the club’s faint postseason hopes alive. The A’s, buoyed by Cliff Pennington’s two-run homer in the second inning, staked Griffin to an early 3-0 lead. However, former Athletic Nick Swisher led a four-run Yankee uprising in the fourth with a two-run clout, and the A’s advantage had melted away in a New York second. At that juncture, a betting man would have figured a Yankee series sweep to be a lock. Yet, a spark was lit in the fifth and sixth innings that would burn for the remainder of the season. The A’s rallied for single runs in both frames, and then the brilliant bullpen work of Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour slammed the lid on a remarkable 5-4 comeback win that would ignite a victory flurry down the stretch that led to a division-clinching victory over Texas on the final day of the season.
So, when you tune in tomorrow evening for the series opener at Yankee Stadium (CSN California and 95.7 FM The Game), remember that The House That Jeter Built was the scene of one of the most important wins in recent A’s history. I know I will.