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Yankees 4, Athletics 7: Ellsbury homer provides only a fleeting lead

Turns out Vidal Nuno and the bullpen with all its best arms resting is an awful combination. Huh!

Awesomeness wasted. Shame.
Awesomeness wasted. Shame.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

On a sucky night for Yankees fans caused by the sad passing of former bench coach Don Zimmer, the Yankees only briefly provided some entertainment. Although they held a lead at one point thanks to a Jacoby Ellsbury dinger, the pitching staff had a piss-poor night on the mound, and the Athletics came back to win it. The Yankees have now lost four games in a row. Yippie skip.

Vidal Nuno ran into a bit of trouble in the first when the baseball gods decided to screw with him. There were two outs and no one on when Josh Donaldson dribbled a slow grounder up the third base line. It literally rolled along the third base line and came to a stop just shy of third base in fair territory for an infield single. Baseball. Yoenis Cespedes lined a single to left, but Nuno managed to strike out Derek Norris to end the inning.

Both Nuno and Oakland starter Jesse Chavez kept the game relatively uneventful until the bottom of the third, when Ichiro Suzuki worked a leadoff walk. One out later, Brett Gardner laced a single to center field, sending Ichiro to third and giving the Yankees their first big opportunity. Gardner stole second to put another runner in scoring position, and Derek Jeter followed with a slow chopper to shortstop that he beat out for an infield single. Ichiro scored and the Yankees were on the scoreboard. Ellsbury then blasted the big hit the Yankees had so desperately missed the past week or so by sending a long ball into the bullpen in right-center field, his third homer of the season. To say that it was refreshing to see that ball go over the fence is an understatement.

Armed with the lead, Nuno promptly gave up a long Cespedes homer to Monument Park, possibly the most predictable homer of the year given Nuno's unimpressive repertoire and Cespedes's power bat. (As an aside, Michael Kay tried to make a point of how guys with shaky stuff need to hit their spots to succeed, then compared Nuno's repertoire to 2008 Mike Mussina. Preposterous.) Norris singled to left on a grounder through the left side, but Nuno managed to work out of the jam by fanning Brandon Moss and inducing a 5-4-3 double play from Kyle Blanks. Although it looked like the Yankees might get the A's back for that run when Ichiro and Gardner were on first and second with two outs in the fourth, Chavez snuffed out the rally by getting a called strike three on Jeter.

With over 70 pitches already in the books, Nuno took the mound for the fifth and immediately ran into trouble against the bottom of the A's lineup. He walked Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto sent a single up the middle to bring the tying run to the plate with nobody out. Craig Gentry hit a grounder toward first that Mark Teixeira reached and made a nice dive to first, beating Gentry to the bag, though both runners moved up. Jed Lowrie sent a long fly to the right field wall, enough to score Callaspo. With Donaldson due up, Joe Girardi decided that was enough from Nuno, and lifted him after just 4 2/3 innings--another short outing from a member of the rotation. Womp. Thankfully, Matt Daley got Donaldson to lift a lazy fly to right field to end the inning.

The productive outing did not last for Daley, who promptly gave up a Yankee Stadium special homer to Cespedes, his second of the game. Norris reached on a bad throw by Jeter, and Girardi brought lefty Matt Thornton into the game. The southpaw didn't really do his job, as Moss singled and Blanks walked to load the bases with nobody out. He did a decent job working out of the jam, surrendering only the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Callaspo, but Thornton will have to buy Yangervis Solarte a nice suit sometime. Solarte saved the inning with a great charge on a slow roller from Gentry, and he fired to first just in time to end the inning and preserve the tie.

Rookie Jose Ramirez entered for the seventh after being called up today to provide some bullpen help after several dominant game out of the 'pen in Triple-A Scranton. In his first big league inning, he had the tall task of facing the heart of Oakland's lineup. Even the best of relievers might falter under such conditions, and sure enough, Donaldson took Ramirez deep to left field with one out to give the A's a 5-4 lead. Ramirez retired all three other hitters, but the damage was done.

Meanwhile, the Yankees reverted back to their non-scoring ways. They had a chance to score in the sixth when after reaching on a fielder's choice, Ichiro stole second with two outs and advanced to third on a bad throw from Norris. John Ryan Murphy could not capitalize on this investment opportunity though, and he bounced out to end the inning. The Yankees had another shot in the seventh when Jeter reached on an error by Lowrie and Ellsbury singled him to scoring position with one out. Unfortunately, Teixeira could only ground into a force out against new reliever Dan Otero, and Brian McCann also hit one weakly, bringing the rally to a halt.

The Yankees couldn't manage much of anything else at the plate, and fresh(?) mop-up man Wade LeBlanc gave up two more runs in the ninth to effectively end hopes of a comeback with dominant reliever Sean Doolittle coming in for the ninth. Surprise, surprise.

The only plus side is that Masahiro Tanaka pitches tomorrow in an attempt to get the Yankees their first win since he was last on the mound. So it goes these days. Sigh.

Box score
Graph score

I miss Zim.