Yankees outlast A's to maintain first-place lead

Yankees outlast A's to maintain first-place lead

Yankees outlast A's to maintain first-place lead
NEW YORK -- Ichiro Suzuki only had to turn and watch as three Oakland home runs sailed over his head in left field in the 13th inning Saturday, but his lasting image from the 14-inning affair will be Eduardo Nunez's ground ball kicking away from first baseman Brandon Moss as he raced home to score the winning run in a 10-9 game.

The Yankees rallied from a four-run deficit in the 13th inning before walking off an inning later, loading the bases for Ichiro to score the decisive run and maintain their one-game lead in the American League East on the Orioles, who won their own 12-inning affair in Boston long before New York concluded its nearly six-hour contest.

"When they scored four runs, a lot of fans went home," Ichiro said. "I bet they're shocked to get home and see the score."

But the Yankees never even gave thought to losing, according to manager Joe Girardi.

"When guys came in [the dugout], there were a lot of guys yelling, 'Let's go, let's go, one at-bat at a time,'" Girardi said. "Everyone was kind of caught up in that, not so much that we had just given up four."

Ichiro was once again the spark, beating out an infield single before Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano followed with hits of their own. Ichiro scored on a wild pitch, Rodriguez scored on a sacrifice fly from Nunez, and Raul Ibanez tied the game at 9 with his second home run of the game after he started the day on the bench.

"The at-bats that got us there, the other guys put on great at-bats and got on base," said Ibanez, who entered the game in an 0-for-18 skid. "They created that inning for us."

It injected new life into a Yankee Stadium crowd that slowly dwindled throughout the five-hour, 43-minute matchup, then truly shrunk once the A's hit back-to-back homers off Freddy Garcia and added another off Justin Thomas to take a 9-5 lead in the 13th.

Garcia gave the Yankees three scoreless innings in a game in which they were without Rafael Soriano and David Robertson but still used eight relievers after starter Ivan Nova struggled and departed with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning.

But Girardi believes Garcia, who last appeared Sept. 9, tired when he came out for his fourth inning, surrendering a two-run homer to Jonny Gomes and a solo shot to Yoenis Cespedes.

"He did a really good job until that point and gave us an opportunity to win a couple different times before that," Girardi said.

But the Yankees never took advantage, leaving the bases loaded an inning earlier and stranding 17 runners. They repeatedly strung together hits like they did in the final two frames, they just did not capitalize until the end.

Rodriguez looked as if he drove in the winning run prior to Nunez's final at-bat, singling up the middle with Melky Mesa, pinch-running for Eric Chavez in his Major League debut, on second base. But the late-September callup stumbled and missed the bag as he attempted to round third base, leaving the bases loaded for Cano.

"Nobody's going to be perfect out there and we've all made mistakes where we've fumbled balls, forgot how many outs there were, missed bases," Girardi said. "It just happened in his debut, and he won't forget it."

Moss' error made it easier for the 25-year-old to forget after Cano hit into a fielder's choice that saw Mesa called out on a force play at home.

Then Nunez sent a 1-0 slider spinning down the first-base line, and although Moss got a glove on the ball that the official scorer ruled an error, Nunez immediately thought it would be good enough for the game-winner.

"It had some English on it," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "It was off the end of the bat, so it was spinning pretty hard once it hit his glove and probably kicked out of there."

It created a pair of swarms at first base around Nunez and at home around Ichiro, who touched home for the third time after putting New York on the board with a homer in the first inning.

"It feels like three days ago," Ichiro joked of the home run, but is actually when the outfielder began a five-game stretch in which he is 14-for-20 with seven runs, five RBIs, three doubles and two homers.

The Yankees scored two more runs by the time the first inning ended, adding another in the second and prompting Melvin to lift starter Travis Blackley in favor of the Oakland bullpen before the third, with each starter showing little life.

New York led, 5-4, after Ibanez hit his pinch-hit homer in the fifth -- just as timely but not nearly impressive as his second-deck shot that tied it nine innings later -- but Derek Lowe caved in the seventh after 2 2/3 innings, allowing a run that tied the game at five.

The Yankees then had opportunities to take a lead in the seventh (two on with no outs), ninth (a runner in scoring position) and 12th (bases loaded) before they finally finished it in the 14th.

Even then, Nunez thought the game would be over before he stepped to the plate, but as his ground ball kicked away from Moss, Ichiro and the remaining crowd had a new lasting image.

"I thought Cano was going to finish the game," Nunez said. "When he missed, I thought to myself, 'Do it.' We already played 14 innings. That's a long game."

Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.