BY ANTHONY SOSA
In what looked to be a possible preview of the AL Wild Card game, the Oakland Athletics defeated the New York Yankees 6 -3, in a Labor Day matinee Monday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum in the first matchup of a three-game series between the two clubs. New York’s No. 1 Wild Card spot lead was trimmed to 3.5 games in front of Oakland.
New York put the pressure on Oakland early. Newly-acquired Andrew McCutchen led off the game with a seeing-eye single through the left side. He then stole second base and made it to third on a throwing error by Jonathan Lucroy. McCutchen then scored on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Hicks to give the Yankees a quick 1-0 lead.
The A’s fired back right away in the bottom of the first inning. After retiring the leadoff hitter, Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia allowed four consecutive singles, which led to the A’s scoring on a ball scorched off the bat of Khris Davis. Matt Olson walked with the bases loaded to put another run on the board. The Athletics got their third run of the inning when Miguel Andujar made a throwing error on a soft ground ball hit by Mark Canha.
The A’s didn’t hold their lead for long. In the top of the second inning, Gary Sanchez reached on a walk. Two batters later, Luke Voit launched a two-run shot over the right-center field wall to tie the game at three. Voit’s 389-foot home run was his seventh of the season and his sixth in his past 11 games.
With the two teams trading back-and-forth blows, the A’s grabbed the lead again in the bottom half of the second. After Marcus Semien walked, Matt Chapman followed with a shot into the left-center gap. The ball skipped past Aaron Hicks, allowing Semien to score. Chapman hustled and attempted for a three-bagger but was thrown out by the Yankees’ relay. Oakland added to their lead in the fourth. After hitting a one-out double, Semien scored on an RBI single by Jed Lowrie. “When he’s swinging well, he’s a big part of the offense,” Melvin said about Lowrie. “I can’t say enough about what he’s not only meant to the team, but also the production he’s had the last two years. The best two years of his career.”
The Yankees didn’t get much out of Sabathia. He went just 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks. The 38-year-old racked up four strikeouts in his outing. He allowed a run to score in three of the four innings he was out on the mound. The veteran left-hander produced quality starts in each of his past three outings before Monday’s poor outing.
Canha unloaded on a hanging A.J. Cole slider and deposited it into the left-field bleachers for a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth frame. The 407-foot bomb was his 16th home run of the season and it gave the A’s a three-run cushion.
Despite his early struggles, Trevor Cahill managed to give the A’s five innings of work. Things started out bleak for the right-hander, as he needed 48 pitches to get through the first two innings, but he saved the A’s bullpen some extra work with a nine-pitch third inning and an eight-pitch fourth inning. His final line included three runs allowed (two earned) on four hits and a walk. He also punched out three batters and earned his sixth win this season.
“You want to go as deep in a game as possible, but you also know in the back of your head that in a close game that we have a lot of good arms down there (bullpen),” Cahill said. “With a lineup like that, they try to limit us on how many times we’ve faced each guy. It’s different than normal but it’s been effective for us, so I think we’ll just stick with it.”
Lou Trivino took over for Cahill in the sixth inning and put out one of his best performances of the season. He struck out the side in order. Striking out the three, four and five hitters in Giancarlo Stanton, Hicks and Andujar. “It was just trying to attack the zone,” Trivino said. “I know lately I’ve been struggling not being as aggressive in the zone. For me, I’m trying to get back to where I was in my delivery. Trying to stay behind the ball, stay through the ball. I felt good today so hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.”
The Yankees threatened in the top of the seventh inning. After Gary Sanchez reached on a passed ball on a strikeout, Gleyber Torres walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Yusmeiro Petit struck out Luke Voit and then Ryan Buchter struck out pinch-hitter Neil Walker and got Brett Gardner to fly out to end the inning with no damage done.
Blake Treinen took over in the ninth inning and shut the door on the Yankees. He earned his 36th save of 2018. With the win, the A’s are now 83-56 and remain 2.5 games back of the Houston Astros for first place in the AL West. They currently hold a six-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot. “It’s certainly going to be a fun series but it’s still early September, I think we need to keep things in perspective,” Lowrie said. “Obviously, it’s a big series and a team that we are trying to chase down, but we need to be all in to this week.”
The A’s and Yankees continue their series on Tuesday. The A’s will send Liam Hendricks to the mound to start a “bullpen game” and pitch one inning. Melvin stated that usual starter Frankie Montas will enter and pitch sometime during the game as well. As for the Yankees, they’ll send J.A. Happ (15-6, 4.00) to the mound. Since joining New York in late July, the left-hander is 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 35 strikeouts in six outings. First pitch takes place at 7:05 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum.
Before Monday’s game, the Athletics acquired Aaron Brooks, a pitcher from the Milwaukee Brewers, for cash considerations. This is the second time the A’s have acquired the right-hander. They did so back in July of 2015 when they traded Ben Zobrist to the Kansas City Royals. Brooks hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since he was last with the A’s. “
Since the acquisition was made in September, Brooks is ineligible for the A’s playoff roster. However, he adds depth to an Athletics’ pitching staff that is already depleted from injuries. His major league stats include a 3-5 record and an 8.38 ERA in 58 innings pitched. This season, in triple-A Colorado Springs, he owns a 9-4 record and 3.35 ERA in 26 games.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the A’s made a corresponding move Monday. The team designated reliever Danny Coulombe for assignment.