A's endure historic extra-inning loss

September 23, 2012, 1:31 am
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NEW YORK -- The A's and Yankees engaged in a game of managerial chess on Saturday that would have made even Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky envious. The A's used 21 players (nine pitchers and 12 hitters), and the Yankees used 26 (nine pitchers and 17 hitters), in a 14-inning marathon game that lasted five hours and 43 minutes. In the end, it was the Yankees who delivered a checkmate as they emerged victorious in walk-off fashion for the second night in a row. As Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York' pumped through the speakers, the A's were left trying to process how they blew a four-run lead in extra innings for the first time in franchise history. Saddled with their second tough loss in as many nights, A's manager Bob Melvin said he didn't feel the need to address the team with a post-game pep talk. "They played their hearts out," Melvin said. "We've been pretty good about putting games away and coming back out and playing tomorrow." The game featured several drastic turns of events. In the bottom of the 14th inning, everyone in the stadium thought the game was over when Alex Rodriguez stroked a single with two runners on base, but pinch-runner Melky Mesa, who was making his Major League debut, forgot to touch third base and couldn't score. The mistake gave the A's a second chance to escape the jam, but first baseman Brandon Moss mishandled what would have been the final out of the inning, turning it into the game-winner. "It was spinning pretty hard when it came off the bat, so it probably kicked out of there," Melvin said. "It certainly looked like the ball had some pretty good English on it when it was hit." In the 13th inning, the A's had the Yankees reeling. Oakland achieved a different franchise record by slugging three homers in an extra-inning frame. Jonny Gomes hit a go-ahead two-run homer, Yoenis Cespedes launched a missile into the second deck in left field and Chris Carter hit a towering drive that also reached the second level. Down 9-5 in the bottom of the 13th, the Bronx Bombers battled back, eventually tying the game with a two-run homer off the bat of Raul Ibanez, his second of the game. "You know it's never over until it's over, if we can put up four runs they can too," Melvin said. "You have to go out there and keep your focus and play it out until it's over, and it didn't end up in our favor."
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The defeat was a crushing blow for the A's. They have lost five of their last six games and seem to be sinking. They still are in possession of one of the American League Wild Card spots, but without their three best pitchers, they are taking on water fast. One thing the team has done well is compartmentalize losses both in the standings and the personnel department and turn the page. They are being put to the ultimate test. "Our back's not on the wall," Gomes said. "If we lost today, the season is not over. It wasn't game seven of the World Series." The A's had several chances to break the game open and couldn't capitalize. They loaded the bases on three different occasions but failed to drive home a run in all three instances. Josh Reddick was moved to sixth in the batting order to relieve some pressure at the plate, but the high leverage situations had a way of finding him. He stepped to the plate twice with the bases loaded but finished the night 0-for-7. In his 10th inning bases loaded at-bat, he pulled a liner that Yankees first baseman Steve Pearce made a diving catch on. Reddick stopped in disbelief and crouched half-way between home and first."That was really frustrating for him," Melvin said. "There were so many things over the course of that game that could have made it a different outcome or at least the game different going forward but baseball is some kind of game."Reddick leads the A's with 29 homers and 79 RBI, but has stranded 13 runners in this series. He hit several balls hard on Saturday, but couldn't get any of them to fall in. "There's different kinds of slumps," Gomes said. "Young kid got a little piece of the success pie and now he's got a little piece of this pie, and we'll let him grind it out and hopefully he can carry us down the stretch like he did in the beginning."Travis Blackley started the game for the A's, but only lasted two innings. He allowed four runs, two of which were earned. A balk call by second base umpire Larry Vanover knocked him off his rhythm. The Australian-born pitcher ranks second in the American League with seven pick-offs and had Rodriguez out at first, but the umpire said he balked and awarded Rodriguez second base. He came around to score moments later on a Robinson Cano single. "I just wish there was a little more clarity in the rules because I have been pitching 12 years and doing the same move," Blackley said. "Sometimes I get called for a balk and sometimes I don't. He doesn't even have a view of me from there either, he is behind me so he can't even tell if my leg crosses over so that is frustrating." "I think that effected his mechanics some and he had to do things differently," Melvin said of the balk call on Blackley. Earlier in the week, Blackley said it was a dream come true to pitch at Yankee Stadium. It quickly became a nightmare. He admitted after the game he might have been a little too amped up."I was trying to keep calm, and I think I should have let it go and rode what I was feeling inside," Blackley said. "Lesson learned for next time, I guess. It feels like I pitched yesterday after this long game." Yankees' starting pitcher Ivan Nova also had an early departure. He only lasted two and one-third innings as the game turned into a battle of the bullpens. The A's relievers kept the game close over 11 23 innings of work but unraveled in the end. Rookie reliever Evan Scribner pitched two of the biggest innings of his life. He threw a scoreless 11th and 12th frame, but the innings were packed with drama.In the 12th inning with Ibanez on third and one out, Russell Martin hit a sharp grounder to Cliff Pennington who threw home to Norris. Ibanez came crashing into Norris trying to pry the ball loose but the burly catcher held on for the out as he was tossed backwards. "It stings but it's just part of the game," Norris said. "Being short and squatty it's going to be up top, but he got me pretty good up in the neck and the chin." Trainer Walt Horn and Melvin checked on Norris, but he stayed in the game. He looked woozy after the collision but downplayed it after the game."Not a little dazed at first," Norris said. "Just more of an 'ow' feeling." "It's unbelievable," Scribner said of his catcher. "He got smoked and the fact that he hung onto the ball is unbelievable. Big play, huge play."Scribner rewarded his catcher for making the game-saving play by getting Derek Jeter to hit a lazy fly ball with the bases loaded to end the inning. A moment he described as stressful.The A's started the game with back-to-back-to-back doubles to take a two-run lead. That seemed like ages ago. Stephen Drew also hit a home run for the green and gold. The A's lost the first two games but pushed the Yankees to the brink in both games this series. "Another tough, tough loss," Blackley said. "The boys are battling hard, it could be 2-0 and instead we are 0-2. We just have to come back tomorrow and get them.""I've played in this building a lot you know?" Gomes said. "This building is an emotional roller coaster -- up, down, up, down. I am sure they were going through the same thing. Obviously they had last licks and got the upper hand there. This is Yankee Stadium, there are a lot of greats looking down."

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