OAKLAND, Calif. — A lineup many fans on social media declared DOA upon seeing 3 1⁄2 hours ultimately fell Friday night.
But the lineup had little do with the defeat, a second consecutive soul-crusher, this one a 7-6 setback in front of 30,184 at Oakland Coliseum.
It was the fourth straight loss on this going-nowhere trip west for the Yankees (38-27), whose AL East lead has been trimmed to one.
The culprit, as it’s been much of the seven-game trip, was a bullpen Joe Girardi described earlier in the week as being “fried,” a unit that continues to torch games.
“Right now, our bullpen’s been in a little bit of disarray,” Girardi said after his team rebounded from an early 4-0 deficit to score six unanswered but fell nonetheless. “But we’ll get it straightened out and we’ll be fine.”
Girardi said Masahiro Tanaka will take his regular turn Saturday instead of Luis Cessa, whom he was considering starting. But even as Tanaka has struggled, Girardi has to like his chances of getting some much-needed distance from the former Saturday. Additionally, bullpen help should arrive Sunday when Aroldis Chapman is due back from the disabled list.
“I still believe in these guys, they’re not always going to be perfect,” Girardi said of the bullpen, which has taken the loss in each of the losses during this skid and was without Dellin Betances on Friday because of the 1 2⁄3 innings he threw Thursday. “They’re going to have their ups and downs and right now we’re in a little downturn, but that will turn back up.”
Friday night, the group failed to hold a 6-4 lead that was achieved without the injured Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks and included Rob Refsnyder leading off, Ronald Torreyes hitting eighth and call-up Mason Williams hitting ninth as Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius were given the night off.
The Bombers led 6-4 entering the bottom of the seventh but Chasen Shreve allowed a run on a Chad Pinder sacrifice fly.
Luis Severino managed to last six innings after a disastrous 40-pitch second in which he allowed all four of his runs.
Rookie righthander Jonathan Holder then gave it up in the eighth. He walked Yonder Alonso with one out and allowed a ground-rule double to Ryon Healy, momentarily catching a huge break when the ball hopped over the wall in left-center. An intentional walk to Stephen Vogt loaded the bases and Matt Chapman, who made his big-league debut Thursday, collected his first major-league hit. He lined an 0-and-2 curveball Holder wanted in the dirt but left up down the leftfield line for a two-run single that made it 7-6.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Holder said. “The team got us back in the game. I didn’t execute a couple of pitches.”
Thursday night, it was Giovanny Gallegos, optioned back to the minors earlier in the day, giving up two in the bottom of the 10th, leading to an 8-7 loss, this after being one strike away from his first career save.
“I’m pleased with the way we keep fighting back and that will bode well during the course of the season,” Girardi said.
The A’s (29-38), who improved to 20-13 at home compared with 9-25 on the road, had seven hits compared with 10 for the Yankees.
The Bombers did make it interesting in the top of the ninth against righthander Santiago Casilla, the Oakland closer.
Aaron Judge, a California native playing in front of plenty of family and friends, walked with one out. Judge went 2-for-3 with three walks, hitting a three-run homer, his MLB-leading 23rd, in the third inning to make it 4-3. The rightfielder hit his club-best third triple in the seventh, scoring later in the inning to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead.
But Casilla struck out Matt Holliday swinging. Starlin Castro, 18 for his last 42 to that point after a two-hit night, struck out, earning Casilla his 11th save.
“You always want to come out with the win, that’s the most important thing,” said Judge, now slashing .339/.447/.713. “We got down early, were able to fight back, but the A’s just came up with the clutch hit when they needed it.”