Maybe you couldn't see them, but the ghosts were there for a Yankees bullpen that fought for three full innings to preserve Masahiro Tanaka's 2-1 win over the A's Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Dellin Betances, who allowed a tying RBI double in the eighth against the A's on Tuesday night, pitched a clean seventh inning. Adam Warren, who gave up three 10th-inning runs and took the loss Tuesday night, allowed two singles to open the eighth but escaped unscathed. And David Robertson, making his second appearance since being charged with five runs in the ninth and blowing a save Sunday against the Twins, allowed Craig Gentry to reach third before striking out Derek Norris looking to end the game.
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"I didn't have any doubts these guys would bounce back,'' manager Joe Girardi said of his relievers after the Yankees snapped a four-game losing streak. "Warren got in a little trouble but then got three huge outs. It was important because you don't want to let another one get away.''
Tanaka (9-1, 2.02 ERA) often takes the pressure off the bullpen by going deep into games, but he gave up a first-pitch home run to John Jaso, the second batter he faced, and was hard-pressed to produce his 12th quality start (at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs) in as many appearances.
Tanaka gave up five hits, struck out four and walked one in six innings, but 52 of his 104 pitches came in the fourth and fifth innings. Considering the circumstances, Girardi said, "I think you could say it's maybe his biggest win for us.''
Tanaka disagreed but added, "Given the fact the team was in a little bit of a slump and we were facing one of the best teams in the league, I'm happy I was able to contribute . . . The Athletics were really resilient and didn't give in.''
Neither did the Yankees. They tied it in the second when Brian McCann singled, went to second when leftfielder Brandon Moss let the ball get by him for an error and scored on Alfonso Soriano's single. Brett Gardner led off the third with a first-pitch homer against lefthander Drew Pomeranz (5-3, 2.20 ERA), who retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced through seven innings.
The last thing the Yankees needed was more bullpen drama, but Coco Crisp and Jaso singled off Warren to open the eighth. "I took a step back and said, 'You're better than this. You can pitch out of it,' '' said Warren, describing his interior monologue.
He then sandwiched strikeouts of Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes around a nice running catch by rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Moss' sinking liner.
Robertson fanned Jed Lowrie to start the ninth, but Stephen Vogt singled and pinch runner Gentry stole second. He reached third on a sharp grounder by Alberto Callaspo that hit Robertson's foot and bounced to Mark Teixeira, who threw to Robertson covering first.
"I was going to eat it,'' Teixeira said. "I didn't think Robertson had a chance to get to first, but he yelled. It was a really athletic play on his part, a big out.''
"I was probably the happiest guy in the stadium when the ball hit me,'' Robertson said. "If it gets behind me, [Gentry's] probably going to score.''
Robertson then caught Norris looking at a 93-mph fastball that Norris argued was outside.
"We had the lead a couple times and couldn't hold it,'' Robertson said of the bullpen's recent woes. "But we held it down today when the A's were fighting us tooth and nail on every pitch. I feel very fortunate to get the win.''