Nick Swisher strains hip flexor in Yanks' walk-off loss to A's

Yankees catcher Russell Martin, left, cant make the Yankees catcher Russell Martin, left, cant make the tag on Yoenis Cespedes in the ninth inning. (July 20, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Robinson Cano extended his career-best hitting streak to 23 games in the seventh inning Friday night with a catchable liner that easily could have been scored an error on the shortstop.

There could be no such quibbles with his ninth-inning hit, a screaming, opposite-field liner off closer Ryan Cook that cleared the leftfield wall to pull the Yankees, who struggled all night at the plate, even with the A's.

But the Yankees' bullpen couldn't continue the momentum as Brandon Moss' one-out single in the bottom of the ninth off Cody Eppley drove in Yoenis Cespedes with the winning run in a 3-2 victory in front of 24,148 at the O.co Coliseum.

But of more immediate concern to the Yankees (57-36), who despite their second straight loss still hold an eight-game lead over Baltimore in the AL East, is the condition of Nick Swisher. The rightfielder left the game with a mild left hip flexor strain after grounding into a fielder's choice for the first out of the seventh inning.

"He's not a player for me tomorrow," Joe Girardi said of Swisher. "Hopefully soon."

Swisher doesn't foresee the injury putting him on the DL -- "that word's not in my vocabulary," he said -- but figures he'll have to sit for a short while.

"I didn't feel like I really yanked it, I just kind of felt like I just kind of tugged it," Swisher said of running out the play to first. "Hopefully, it's only two, three days."

The Yankees, of course, found out the day before that leftfielder Brett Gardner, who will have surgery next week on his right elbow, would be likely lost for the season.

Ivan Nova, far better last night than in his previous outing against the Angels, when he allowed a career-worst three home runs, wasn't nearly as good as his counterpart, rookie lefthander Tommy Milone, who pitched brilliantly.

Nova went 62/3 innings, allowing two runs and nine hits, five of them going for extra bases. He struck out six and walked one and, in what might have been his most impressive stat of the night, stranded 14.

"Sometimes, I think when I have men in scoring position, I focus more than when I have nobody on base," Nova said. "I think I have to focus the same way but I think that's what I'm doing. I need to focus [as much] with nobody on."

Milone, who came in 9-6 with a 3.54 ERA, was spectacular in gaining some measure of revenge for the last time he faced the Yanks, when he pitched well but came up short in a 2-0 loss on May 27.

Friday night he allowed six hits over seven innings and struck out a career-high 10, matching the most strikeouts any A's pitcher has ever had against the Yankees (Bobby Witt had 10 July 2, 1993).

The Yankees did not get a runner in scoring position until the sixth but did not score. They had two cracks in the seventh when Cano, who led off the inning with a soft sinking liner that shortstop Eric Sogard probably should have fielded, reached second with one out.

Milone struck out Andruw Jones and Jayson Nix to end the threat.

Russell Martin's 10th homer in the eighth off lefty Jerry Blevins cut the Oakland lead to 2-1. The blast gave the Yankees, whose streak of scoring at least three runs or more ended at 43 games, an MLB-high eight players with double-digit homers.

The A's (49-44), very much in the thick of the AL wild-card race, improved to an MLB-best 12-2 in July.

"It starts with their pitching," Martin said. "Not many teams can contain us the way they have in the last couple games. Their guy tonight, I didn't really see a good pitch to hit."

Nova retired the first two batters he faced in the first but ended up making the inning interesting. Josh Reddick smacked a double down the rightfield line and Cespedes, who homered the night before, reached on an infield single. A walk to Seth Smith loaded the bases.

But Nova escaped the 26-pitch inning by getting Moss to fly out to center.

After Milone retired the Yankees in order in the second, Nova needed just eight pitches to do the same to the A's.

Milone set down the Yankees 1-2-3 again in the third and in the bottom half his offense gave him the lead as Coco Crisp led off with his third triple of the season, a shot down the rightfield line. Jemile Weeks followed with a sacrifice fly to medium center, plenty deep enough to bring in Crisp, making it 1-0.

Poor baserunning shorted a potential Yankee threat in the fourth. Mark Teixeira reached when he blooped a single to center and Alex Rodriguez followed by grounding a single to right. Teixeira inexplicably took off for third and Reddick, the rightfielder, easily threw him out. Cano took a called third strike to end the inning.

Doubles by Moss and Brandon Inge to start the fourth gave Milone a 2-0 lead. Nova then bobbled Eric Sogard's comebacker, putting runners at first and second, and Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice bunt moved them ahead. Nova, however, shut the inning down, striking out Crisp and getting Weeks to pop out.

After Milone struck out the side in the top of the fifth -- giving him five strikeouts in his last seven faced, including four straight - Reddick opened the bottom half with the A's fifth extra-base hit of the night, a double into the gap in right-center. But Nova kept Reddick from scoring, inducing three straight groundouts.

"Two runs, not bad," Martin said of Nova's outing. "I still feel like he's throwing the ball well. He kept us in the game. That was more positive than negative for him tonight."

You also may be interested in: