The Yankees certainly didn't make it easy for the faint of heart tonight, but through some good fortune and Mark Teixeira highlights, they emerged victorious over the Athletics by a score of 5-4. Although Tex was the hero of the night, it took a group effort to survive their comeback.
At first, the starting pitcher matchup appeared to be a huge advantage to Oakland. Highly-regarded lefty trade target Scott Kazmir faced off against the badly struggling CC Sabathia. Sure enough, the first few innings seemed to meet expectations. Sabathia stumbled through a rocky second inning, as Billy Butler and Brett Lawrie led off the frame with hits, and even though Butler was erased at home on a fielder's choice, Josh Phegley and Mark Canha smacked back-to-back singles to give Oakland an early 2-0 lead. Through three innings against Kazmir, the Yankees were only able to score once, when Chris Young reached on a Lawrie error and scored on a double by Didi Gregorius.
Joe Girardi's squad caught a break when Kazmir did not return for the fourth inning. He left with left triceps tightness, forcing Bob Melvin to turn to the bullpen early. Evan Scribner replaced Kazmir, and recently-christened All-Star Mark Teixeira greeted him with a solo homer to right field, tying the game at 2-2. Scribner then exacerbated problems by walking Young and deflecting a comebacker, allowing John Ryan Murphy to reach on an infield single. Scribner paid no attention to Young at second, and in an alert play, Young swiped third base. Jose Pirela then lifted a sacrifice fly to score Young, giving the Yankees a narrow 3-2 advantage.
After the game, it was revealed that Sabathia had his knee drained and went through a PRP injection, which is what forced Girardi to skip his last start. It was evident that CC wasn't much better than he has been in most of his starts, but to his credit, he avoided the classic "bad CC inning." Instead, he pitched 5 1/3 frames of two-run ball, allowing nine baserunners on seven hits and two walks but working out of trouble in almost all instances. He gave up a soft one-out single to Jake Smolinski in the sixth, and Girardi decided that 88 pitches was enough, giving him the up hook a good couple batters before he would have reached 100, the classic CC milestone.
Although Girardi's early call to the 'pen might have cost him the game yesterday, it worked tonight. Bryan Mitchell struck out Phegley, and after a walk to Canha, Marcus Semien grounded out to end the threat. Teixeira rewarded Mitchell's efforts with his second homer in three innings against Scribner, the 22nd homer of the season, tying him already with his 2014 total. It's been a hell of a comeback year for Tex, and he definitely deserves the All-Star nod. It wasn't all dingers tonight from Tex, either. He turned a line drive double play in the first, made an awesome catch leaning into the dugout at the star of the seventh, and robbed Josh Reddick of a double with two down in the eighth. Not friggin' bad, Tex.
The Yankees received an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Stephen Drew took Fernando Abad deep to right field for his 12th bomb of the year. A great deal of Yankees fans probably groaned upon Drew's homer, as his power has been the one rarely glimpsed part of his offensive game that has kept him as a regular presence in the lineup, but the Yankees ended up needing that fifth run. Like Jacoby Ellsbury (1-for-4), Andrew Miller was activated from the DL and was not quite as sharp as he was in April and May. Semien made the game interesting with a two-run homer off Miller with one out in the ninth to cut the Oakland deficit to 5-4, and Stephen Vogt reached with two outs thanks to a Gregorio Petit error at third. Nonetheless, Miller preserved his perfect season, as Ben Zobrist could only produce a slow roller on Miller's 30th pitch. Petit charged and made the difficult play, giving Miller his 18th save of the season.
Buoyed by their narrow win, the Yankees will go for the series victory tomorrow afternoon, as Masahiro Tanaka duels Jesse Chavez at 1:05pm. The bullpen will probably need some rest, so hopefully Tanaka can give them some distance.