A’s take opener over Yankees, ‘flat’ Sabathia

OAKLAND COLISEUM — Most of the A’s recent success has been fueled by a different hero every game.

Tuesday night, it was catcher Derek Norris, who had two hits including a three-run homer and four RBIs as the A’s jumped out to a six-run lead but had to hang on to beat the Yankees 6-4.

Bartolo Colon continues to bathe in the green and gold fountain of youth. Though he issued an uncharacteristic four walks, he pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out three for the win.

Against the bullpen and relievers Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour, The Yankees scored twice in the eighth and ninth.

Balfour told SFBay it was a grind to get that ‘w’ in the win column:

A’s closer Grant Balfour

Audio: Ryan Leong/SFBay

“I’ll have to say the bullpen faltered a little bit. But we still came away with the win. The guys got enough runs tonight for us and I’m sure all the guys including myself would like to be a little sharper. One pitch maybe here or there, you give up a hit and you feel like it could make the difference but we came away with the win, and that’s the main thing.”

Mark Teixeira delivered a clutch two-out, two run single to right. Balfour turned the final out into a near cardiac-arrest with a long drive to left by Travis Hafner caught at the wall by Seth Smith.

When asked about the final out, manager Bob Melvin said:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

Video: CSN California

“When he hit it, I didn’t think it was going as far as it did on a cold night to the opposite field. Once I saw it Smitty go back to the wall, I thought it might go off the wall but I didn’t think it was going out…so somewhere in between.”

The reporters in the room got a bit of a chuckle on Melvin’s reply.

Coco Crisp got things started on the right foot for the A’s with his third leadoff homer of the season and the 11th of his career.

The A’s have been consistently good when they have Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup. When you add the team leading .322 average by All-Star third base candidate, Josh Donaldson, it’s no surprise that Oakland is in a virtual tie for first place in the American League West.

Cespedes left the game in the third inning. When he grounded out to second in his first at-bat, as he crossed first base he winced in pain. He was taken out for precautionary reasons and is listed as day-to-day with left hamstring tightness.

Remember that scene in Major League where the local construction workers have themselves asking, who are these guys?  That pretty much describes the 2013 New York Yankees lineup.

Decimated by injuries, the pinstripers are still a very good squad, second in the AL East despite Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list.

The Yankees were shut out until the eighth when they got RBI singles from Teixeira and Vernon Wells.

The pride of Vallejo, C.C. Sabathia was on the mound for New York. In recent years, the 2007 AL Cy Young winner has pitched better at the Coliseum but it’s historically been a venue where he’s had his least success.

Sabathia’s former demons came back to haunt him on this night, he lasted six innings surrendering six runs on eight hits, taking the loss.

Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia

Video: YES Network

“I just felt like everything was flat. No real life on the fastball but it’s up to me go out there and battle and keep us in the game and I really didn’t do that today.”

Norris added an RBI double in the second and after singles by Nate Freiman and Chris Young in the fourth, Norris homered over the 15-foot wall in left-center.

Donaldson doubled, advanced to third and scored on a wild pitch by Sabathia in the sixth.

Notes

The A’s 39-27 record is their best after 66 games since 1992. Oakland has won eight of its last 11 games. … Colon’s is 5-0 over his last five starts  giving up only three earned runs in 36 innings with no home runs allowed. … Balfour is 16-for-16 in save opportunities this season and converted each of his last 34 save chances. He is the only American League closer without a blown save in 2013. … It was the first career four-RBI game for Norris.