OAKLAND, Calif. — With what seems an insurmountable lead in the AL East, the last six weeks of the regular season for the Yankees will be about achieving two primary goals: securing home-field advantage for the entirety of the postseason and figuring out how to slot their inconsistent rotation once they get there.
Not much positive developed in either department Tuesday night for the Yankees in a 6-2 loss to the surging A’s in front of 21,471 at Oakland Coliseum.
Domingo German got hit hard consistently by a team the Yankees (83-44) might see in October, allowing six runs (five earned) and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“This is part of the game,” German said through his interpreter. “Some days you’re going to have a bad day. As a pitcher, you have to understand that it will happen. Just have to come back strong for the next one.”
The 27-year-old righthander allowed two homers, the blasts coming back to back in the first inning by Matt Olson, who hit a two-run shot, and Mark Canha, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead for Oakland. German (16-3, 4.15), who one would figure as the Game 2 or 3 starter in a Division Series, came into the night 7-0 with a 4.11 ERA in eight starts since coming off the injured list July 3.
German’s outing was only part of the story Tuesday against an Oakland team that is very much alive in the hunt for an AL wild-card berth and improved to 72-53, including 22-12 since the All-Star break.
A’s righthander Homer Bailey, 3-2 with a 6.40 ERA in six starts since Oakland acquired him from Kansas City on July 14, mostly controlled the Yankees for 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
“Just mixing his pitches,” Aaron Judge said of what made Bailey, who improved to 11-8 with a 5.06 ERA overall, effective. “He was able to throw that slider and especially that splitter of his in any count to keep us off balance. We got a lot of hits but weren’t able to get that big one with guys on base.”
The Yankees, who outhit the A’s 11-9, went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight. (Oakland went 1-for-6 and stranded four.)
Bailey, who allowed one of CC Sabathia’s three career homers, retired the first two hitters he faced before Gary Sanchez laid into a hanging 2-and-1 slider and destroyed it to left-center for a 1-0 lead and the catcher’s seventh RBI in his last six games. It also marked Sanchez’s 99th career home run.
Judge homered in the eighth, his 13th blast, and first since Aug. 4, but that only cut the Yankees’ deficit to 6-2.
German could not hold the lead Sanchez provided.
He walked Robbie Grossman with one out in the bottom of the first and, after striking out Matt Chapman, Olson turned on a first-pitch fastball that was up and in and hammered it just fair down the rightfield line, the first baseman’s 26th homer making it 2-1. Canha made it back-to-back blasts by driving a 1-and-1 changeup to right-center, his 19th homer for a 3-1 lead and giving German 27 home runs allowed this season in 22 games (21 starts). The A’s made it 4-1 in the second on Marcus Semien’s RBI double and added two more in the sixth to make it 6-1.
“Just not overly sharp,” Boone said of German. “The walk to Grossman (was) a little uncharacteristic. Usually he pounds the strike zone. And then Olson, I don’t think it was a terrible pitch, kind of up and in, and he got to him. And then a changeup Canha got. Then I thought he settled in actually pretty well. Maybe not his best stuff overall but I thought he pitched better than his line.”