The Yankees always bring extra energy into any stadium they enter, but the first of a three-game series between the top two AL Wild Card contenders — who also happen to have two of the four best records in MLB — had a palpable playoff-like atmosphere.
Yankees fans chanted “Let’s go Yankees” as audibly as Athletics fans did “Let’s go Oakland” Both sides were given reason to cheer early as these two offensive powerhouses jumped on both starters.
Trevor Cahill (W, 6-3, 3.60 ERA) gave up nearly as many earned runs in the first two innings (3) as he had in his previous eight home starts combined (5). He also gave up his first home run since July 31, a two-run shot (7) by first baseman Luke Voit. However, Cahill was able to stabilize himself and last five innings, allowing just a single over his final three frames.
Cahill settled in a bit after the early run-allowance:
“It’s just getting a feel for all your pitches. I was throwing a lot of fastballs, then later in the game started mixing in off-speed. It’s just one of those things where you get more into the flow of the game.”
Behind the Cahill recovery and powerful offensive showing led by Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman, the A’s (83-56) grabbed a 6-3 victory, narrowing the gap between them and the Yankees (86-52) to 3-1/2 games.
New York starter CC Sabathia (L, 7-6, 3.54 ERA) struggled a bit more, allowing seven hits, two walks and five runs (four earned) over just 3-1/3 innings. The top half of the Oakland lineup ruined the Vallejo-native’s latest homecoming as Semien, Chapman, Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis combined for five of the seven hits and all five runs he surrendered.
Lowrie said the success came from not trying to do too much:
“He [Sabathia] executed fairly well. We got a few soft hits there and found some holes.”
New York was missing arguably its best player, Aaron Judge, who continues to recover from a wrist fracture he suffered in late-July. The newly-acquired Andrew McCutchen got another start in right field, going 1-for-4 with a stolen base and run scored in the first. The Yankees are also still without starting shortstop Didi Gregorius, who’s rehabbing a left heel contusion.
Both players, barring any setbacks or new injuries, will likely play significant roles in a potential playoff matchup, whether it be in the Wild Card game or the Division Series.
This series looks to be much different from the previous one in the Bronx in mid-May, where the Yankees took two of three. The A’s started two pitchers who are currently on the 60-day disabled list (Kendall Graveman and Andrew Triggs) and Oakland was still a month away from the beginning of their surge.
A huge part of that surge has been the bullpen, which had one of its most impressive performances Monday afternoon. Five relievers combined for four shutout innings and eight strikeouts of a potent Yankees lineup. Lou Trivino highlighted the ‘pen’s day with a 14-pitch sixth inning in which he struck out Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andújar.
Manager Bob Melvin knows that Trivino can handle any kind of situation:
“I don’t do him any favors. He’s typically the fireman with guys on base or a lot of times he has to go through the middle of the order. And now, with the lefties too, he’s been really good on lefties. This is becoming a long season for him, but after a little bit of a rocky period, which everybody is gonna have, he’s really responded here recently. Not only pitching in the fashion he has, but clean innings, too. Quick innings now, where he’s not getting some runners on base.”
Oakland will employ the bullpen strategy for Tuesday’s game starting opener Liam Hendriks, who Melvin said will pitch just the first inning. Melvin plans to use a starter during the game as well. “Frankie Montas will be in there at some point,” he said. J.A. Happ (15-6, 4.00 ERA) will take the hill for New York.
The A’s acquired minor league pitcher Aaron Brooks from Milwaukee for cash considerations. Danny Coulombe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Brooks. Oakland acquired Brooks once before back in 2015, along with Sean Manaea, in a trade with Kansas City for Ben Zobrist. … Mark Canha’s home run Monday tied his career-high of 16. … Blake Treinen picked up his 36th save and lowered his ERA to 0.91. … The A’s have now won five straight games versus AL East opponents.