OAKLAND, Calif. — Well, that was hideous.
A West Coast trip from the netherworld concluded Sunday afternoon for the Yankees with a 4-3 loss to the A’s in front of 34,140 at Oakland Coliseum.
“Very disappointing,” Brett Gardner said. “No other way to describe it. Doesn’t feel good to lose.”
Joe Girardi, dryly, said it this way: “Not very fun.”
The Yankees, off on Monday, lost their sixth straight to finish 1-6 on a trip that started with a victory last Monday in Anaheim, which was their sixth straight victory.
Now they’re 38-29 and are in a virtual tie with Boston (39-30) for first in the AL East.
The A’s, who had the AL’s worst record by a long shot at the start of the series, still do after the sweep but now sit at 31-38.
“These are the times you find out what you’re made of as a team,” said Matt Holliday, who homered in the second inning but grounded into an inning-ending double play in the eighth. “The season’s not going to go easily, there’s going to be ups and downs. We’re in a little bit of a downturn.”
A bullpen alternately described last week by Joe Girardi as tired, taxed and fried, was called upon one last time this trip when a starter failed to go deep.
Luis Cessa, called up to take the injured CC Sabathia’s turn in the rotation, allowed four runs and five hits over four innings.
But the bullpen wasn’t the issue Sunday as three pitchers combined for four shutout innings, including closer Aroldis Chapman, who returned from the disabled list and threw a 1-2-3 ninth.
Yankee bats, however, looked fatigued in managing just three runs and six hits over 6 1⁄3 innings against righthander Jharel Cotton, who came in 3-7 with a 5.52 ERA.
A streak of 10 straight Yankees retired was broken with one out in the eighth when Ryan Madson hit Aaron Judge on the left elbow. But Holliday grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Chad Pinder’s two-base throwing error with one out in the ninth on a Didi Gregorius grounder gave the Yankees life against lefty Sean Doolittle. Chase Headley struck out and Chris Carter fouled out to first, allowing Doolittle to collect his third save.
The Yankees lost four one-run games on the trip and six games by a combined nine runs.
“You know at some point you’re going to go through some tough spells,” Girardi said. “We just went through one and we have to bounce back on Tuesday.”
Holliday’s homer (No. 14) in the second made it 1-0 and Judge added an RBI single in the third (Judge went 7-for-27 with two homers and six RBIs on the trip).
The A’s tied it in the bottom half when Josh Phegley, the No. 9 hitter, singled, leadoff man Matt Joyce doubled and Chad Pinder roped a two-run double.
Jed Lowrie grounded out but Khris Davis jumped on a 2-and-1 fastball Cessa left up and annihilated it nearly 450 feet to dead centerfield, the leftfielder’s 18th homer making it 4-2.
Gregorius led off the fourth with his seventh homer, but the offense did nothing thereafter as A’s pitchers retired 10 straight following Gardner’s leadoff single in the fifth.
“I don’t know what concern we would have other than we just have to start winning games,” Headley said. “We’re still a good club, we’re still the team that won six in a row right before this.”
Gardner looked at the big picture as well.
“We’re still in first place,” he said. “If you told me [before the season] June  we’d be in first place, I would have signed up for that. You’d rather be eight, 10 games up right now but that’s just not too realistic in the division we’re in. It’s a fight every day.”