A’s ride heat wave, sweep past Yankees

Looking to cool off the Athletics, the New York Yankees got zero help from Mother Nature Sunday.

The 90-degree first pitch temperature was the hottest recorded at the Coliseum since 2008, and just two degrees shy of the hottest at home in Oakland franchise history.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

One person not affected by the scorcher was starter Jharel Cotton, who labored early but got through the sixth, despite needing 101 pitches.

With his bullpen needing all the help it could get, Cotton (W, 4-7, 5.40 ERA) left the shade of the dugout once more to get an out in the seventh. It was just one out — two pitches — but it was all heart.

 

Manager Bob Melvin said it was difficult to hold him there:

“I told him, I go, ‘you got one hitter,’ he goes, ‘I got the whole inning,’ I said, ‘you got one hitter.’ He wanted to go back out there, he was very confident. … I admire him for that.”

Cotton said it was nothing more than wanting to give his A’s (31-38) all he could:

“Towards the end, I wanted to win for the team so badly that no matter what I just wanted to pitch as long as I could go.”

Cotton, who came in topping the Oakland pitching staff in home runs allowed (13), pounded the strike zone in the first, missing the zone just once in his 15-pitch 1-2-3 first inning. But after falling behind for the first time in the afternoon, Matt Holliday crushed a 3-1 cookie for a solo bomb (14) to center opening the scoring.

He allowed single runs in the third, on an Aaron Judge RBI single, and fourth, on Didi Gregorius‘ solo home run (7).

But that is where the rookie righty dug his heels into the bullpen dirt, getting out of the fifth — with the aid of Josh Phegley who threw out Chase Headley attempting to steal second — with a pair of strikeouts. Working around a Brett Gardner leadoff single, Cotton posted a zero in the fifth, getting through the powerful heart of the New York order.

He blew through the sixth. And, given one last batter, Cotton got the powerful Chris Carter on a pop-out. He said:

“It’s hot out there — it’s so hot. But, you know, I prepared well today, drank my electrolytes, so it didn’t phase me as much. Throughout the game I got stronger, that’s probably because the shade was coming.”

Sean Doolittle said Cotton’s effort was huge:

“His pitch-count was a little high through the first couple innings, but for him to remain poised in that situation, against that team … for him to show that maturity, make the adjustments, and go all the way into the seventh inning, was huge for us.”

It would have been for naught, however, had it not been for the bottom of the third, when things boiled over for the Yankees (38-29) and starter Luis Cessa.

Phegley got things started with a one-out single to center and Matt Joyce followed with a double, his first of two hits on the day — eight in the series. After falling behind 1-2, Chad Pinder went with a slider six inches off the plate lining a two-run double into the gap in right-center.

Said Joyce:

“Phegley did a great job of kinda poking something up the middle, I stayed on the ball and hit it in the gap. And Pinder did an amazing job, that was an awesome at-bat, I had a great view from second base, he ended up staying on a slider — it was off the plate — and stayed with it, stayed on it, and hit it in the gap. That was just great hitting right there, great baseball.”

With two down, Khris Davis made it a four-run frame smoking a 2-1 fastball up in the zone up and off the top of the batter’s eye in center above the camera well for a two-run homer (18).

Khris had been 3-for-21 (.143) in his last five games, including an 0-for-5, four-strikeout afternoon Saturday. But the skipper summer what he means to the offense:

“He’s always one swing away from putting a couple runs up on the board, and that’s what he did for us today.”

Cessa lasted just 4 innings, allowing five hits and four runs. When Melvin finally did drag his starter off the field, Cotton had struck out six and walked one in his 6-1/3 innings of work. The Yanks tagged him with six hits and three runs. And the bullpen made his work stand up.

After 1-2/3 innings of perfect work from Daniel Coulombe and Ryan Madson, Doolittle (S, 3, 2.31 ERA) finished things out. Things were made more difficult than they had to be, though, as the stresses of protecting a one-run lead were compounded by a one-out error by Pinder, putting Gregorius at second.

Doolittle fanned Headley and coaxed a pop-out from Carter to get his shortstop off the hook.

After converting saves on consecutive days for the first time since Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2015, Doolittle said:

“There’s been a couple of series’ where we’ve won the first two games, or the first three games, and we haven’t been able to come away with the sweep. So, this feels really good, to put four games together against a team that’s that good — one of the best teams in the American League — and come away with a four-game sweep is really big for us.”

On deck

The A’s open a second straight four-game set at home, this one with the owners of baseball’s best record — the Houston Astros (46-23). Head-to-head, Oakland is 1-4 against the Astros, including losses in both games played at the Coliseum.

Notes

Manager Bob Melvin challenged an out call on a Jaycob Brugman stolen base attempt in the bottom of the fourth. Following replay review the ruling was confirmed. Melvin now carries a 4-12 record (25 percent) in manager challenges. A’s opponents are 13-6 (68 percent) in challenges against them. … The A’s had gone 26 series’ since finishing their last sweep — Sept. 12-15, 2016 against the Kansas City Royals. … This is the third time the A’s have swept four games from the Yankees in 28 tries. The last came July 19-22, 2012.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.