That's about as accurate a word as one might find to describe tonight's game against the Athletics in Oakland. It was not a horrible blowout by any means, but it just never really felt like the Yankees were in the game against A.J. Griffin and the Oakland 'pen. This problem was enhanced by five 1-2-3 innings against Oakland pitching, including a streak of 11 consecutive batters retired between the second and the fifth. Yankees starter Freddy Garcia had no such luck, and Oakland smacked him around for four runs, nine hits, and two walks in 5.2 innings. Despite the advantage of playing in a pitcher's park against the lowest-scoring team in the league, Garcia still did not pitch as well as he did in his previous starts since rejoining the rotation.
In the first inning, Yoenis Cespedes smashed a slow curveball that did not fool him far over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer, giving Oakland an early 2-0 lead. Garcia was able to work a scoreless second despite a leadoff double from Brandon Moss, but he loaded the bases with one out for the Athletics in the third on two singles, a wild pitch, and a walk to Cespedes. Pitching around him did not help though, as Garcia gave up a two-run single to DH Seth Smith, giving Oakland a four-run advantage. Despite a few more hits, Garcia did keep the Athletics off the scoreboard for the remainder of his outing, but the damage was done. The recently recalled David Phelps, Garcia's old caddy from earlier in the season, relieved the righty and retired all seven hitters he faced to end the game in just 27 pitches. Hopefully, Phelps will actually be used now that he's back in the pros and continuing to handle American League hitters like Cespedes and Josh Reddick but who knows. I'd certainly support putting him back into the rotation, but unless Garcia bottoms out again as he did in April, I think manager Joe Girardi will hesitate to demote the veteran. Alas. Please just use Phelps this time and don't let him rot in the 'pen behind the likes of Chad Qualls.
Griffin scattered seven hits in six innings and struck out four Yankees. He only ran into problems at the beginning and the end of his performance. In the first inning, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both singled to left to put runners on first and second with one out for Robinson Cano, who was attempting to extend his 21-game hitting streak. Cano lined another ball to left field that Cespedes charged in on and appeared to catch, but he dropped the ball moments later. The play was ruled a no-catch, and the Cuban star fired to third base in the middle of the confusion to retire Jeter. It was bizarre, but not much could have been done in that situation. Mark Teixeira grounded out to help Griffin get out of the jam. In the sixth, the top of the order was at it again. Jeter and A-Rod both singled to put runners on first and second with one out for Cano. Adding to the déjà vu, Cano smacked a pitch to left field, but this time, it fell in front of Cespedes for a single to both load the bases and officially extend his hitting streak to 22 games (the longest by a lefthanded Yankee hitter since Don Mattingly's 24-game streak in '86). Teixeira floated a run-scoring sacrifice fly to centerfield, and Nick Swisher followed with a run-scoring single to cut the lead in half. The bases were still loaded, but Griffin struck out Raul Ibanez to escape the inning and close his outing. Not bad for a 24-year-old making his fifth career start, against a potent Yankees offense no less.
The offense remained quiet through the rest of the game, although Swisher drilled a solo homer over the wall in right-center field against Oakland closer Ryan Cook with one out in the ninth inning. The dinger extended their curious streak of at least three runs scored in 43 consecutive games. Ibanez again struck out in a spot where he could have helped a rally, and Russell Martin, who oddly entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh with his fearsome .182/.302/.355 triple slash, grounded out to second to end the game in favor of the Athletics. Ivan Nova will take on rising young starter Tom Milone tomorrow night as the Yankees look to even the series.