The Oakland A’s welcomed the New York Yankees to town Friday night for the first game of a three-game set as a sell-out crowd filled the Coliseum to see a post-game fireworks show and to catch one final glimpse of a surefire first ballot Hall of Fame player in Derek Jeter.
Jeter announced in February that this would be his final season, and with the Yankees only scheduled to visit Oakland once this season, this will mark his final trip to the Bay Area as an active player.
While the Yankees recent trips to the Bay Area have not been that successful, losers of their past seven games in Oakland, Jeter will always be remembered as a champion by A’s fans who watched his Yankee teams upset the A’s playoff teams of the early 2000’s over and over, including the infamous “flip play” that was one of the defensive defining moments of Jeter’s career in the 2001 playoffs.
Despite having their ace, Sonny Gray, on the mound, the A’s offense was no match for David Phelps in the homestand opener though as “The Captain’s” Yankees rolled to a 7-0 victory.
Brett Gardner singled to right field to open the game. Next up, Derek Jeter came to bat to a loud ovation by the Oakland crowd, and proceeded to follow up Gardner’s single with one of his own to left field, putting two with no outs. Jacoby Ellsbury continued the trend and singled for the third straight hit of the game against Gray, scoring Gardner and moving Jeter over to third base. Ellsbury advanced to second on the throw in by Cespedes. Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Jeter and give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in their half of the first inning.
Following a strikeout by Ichiro Suzuki to open the second inning, Brian Roberts singled, moved up to second on a walk by Kelly Johnson and scored on a line drive single by Gardner to give New York a 3-0 lead.
“They put the ball in play early, and I left a few balls up, and they were able to take advantage of it,” Gray said. “They were aggressive, and once we were able to start making pitches down in the zone, we got them out. It was just a little too late.”
Gray finally settled down and set the New York lineup down in order the third through fifth innings, but his Yankee counter-part, Phelps, also continued to set the A’s down in order, perfect one time through the lineup.
John Jaso became the first Athletics’ base runner, drawing a walk with one out in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Josh Donaldson lined out to Ichiro Suzuki in right field and Brandon Moss lined out to Ellsbury in center field to end the inning.
Following a Cespedes groundout to open the bottom of the fifth inning, Jed Lowrie drew a walk to become the A’s second base runner of the evening, and second in as many innings. Derek Norris followed with the A’s first hit of the night, a line drive into left field, to move Lowrie to second and break up Phelps’ bid for a no-hitter. Andy Parrino lined out to center field for the second out and Kyle Blanks grounded out to third base to once again end the threat though.
Suzuki finally ended Gray’s streak of 13 straight Yankees retired with an infield single with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. The ball hit off Gray’s glove and deflected towards Parrino at second. Despite bare handing the ball and throwing quickly to first, the speedy Ichiro beat it out for what was ruled a single. Gray got Roberts to strike out for the third out and strand Ichiro at first base.
Phelps gave up his third walk of the game to Coco Crisp in the bottom of the sixth inning to lead off the inning. Phelps was again able to avert the rally though, getting Jaso to ground into a double play. Donaldson grounded out to Jeter for the third out of the inning.
Fernando Abad came onto pitch the seventh inning, wrapping up Gray’s night with a final pitching line of three earned runs on seven hits and one walk. He struck out seven Yankees. With the loss, Gray falls to 6-3 on the season with a 2.93 ERA.
With two outs in the seventh inning, Lowrie doubled over the head of Gardner in left field, bringing an end to David Phelps night as Dellin Betances was called upon in relief for the Yankees.
Phelps finished the evening with no runs allowed on two hits and three walks. He struck out four A’s batters. His record improved to 2-4 and his ERA shrank to 4.32.
“For as well as he pitched, he threw a lot of balls, which usually we take advantage of that,” Moss said. “But any time when we would get the pitch count up, we always seemed to have two strikes. We’d get a guy on and just couldn’t get anything going.”
With Jeff Francis pitching the top of the eighth for Oakland, the Yankees added some insurance, scoring four times to push the score to 7-0. Mark Teixeira singled to Cespedes in left field, and wisely chose not to test his arm and attempt a double. Brian McCann followed with a single to put runners on first and second. Carlos Beltran flew out to Crisp in center field for the second out, but Teixeira advanced to third base. He came home to score on an infield single by Ichiro that deflected off Francis and wound up going to Donaldson at third. Brian Roberts singled to right field to bring home McCann and Ichiro also scored on a passed ball error by catcher Derek Norris on the throw from Moss. Kelly Johnson added an RBI single to bring home Roberts to push the score to 7-0 before Francis finally pitched his way out of trouble.
Betances retired all four batters that he faced to finish the seventh inning as well as a perfect eighth inning.
Jose Ramirez was called upon to pitch the ninth, turning in a 1-2-3 inning to secure the shutout for the Yankees and win the opening game of the weekend set.
The Yankees victory snapped a seven-game home winning streak for Oakland against New York.
Lowrie and Norris recorded the only hits on the night for the A’s. Oakland left four runners on base and was 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
Derek Jeter was 2-for-4 for the Yankees in the opener of his final series in Oakland. Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Brian Roberts each added a pair of hits as well for New York.
Game two of the series will be played tomorrow night with Scott Kazmir pitching for Oakland against Hiroki Kuroda for the Yankees.