By Morris Phillips
In New York, the subway is ever active, and a train is always coming. In the Bronx, that same certainty exists at Yankee Stadium: Murderers Row is now a nine-man cycle with a home run off a Yankees’ bat every 21 plate appearances.
Yes, a Yankees’ home run is always coming, and that’s how the A’s found themselves in the cross hairs on Sunday, clinging to a 4-3 lead in the ninth with the Yankees somehow 32 plate appearances into their muggy afternoon without a homer.
Liam Hendricks was tabbed by Bob Melvin to complete a five-out save, entering with the bases jammed and Gary Sanchez–the ring leader of the high-scoring New York attack–at the plate in the eighth. But after Sanchez popped out, Didi Gregorius lined a two-run single up the middle to trim the A’s lead to 4-3.
Now, in the ninth, Hendricks would face the bottom of the Yankees’ order, a welcome break with a caveat: in 2019, Murderers’ Row provides no breaks, and the A’s closer would see Brett Gardner first–the number seven hitter–more than capable with 18 home runs coming in.
Afterwards, Hendricks would complain that on this occasion he was a little off, missing several pitches off the plate. Ahead in the count, 2-1, Gardner would pounce, sending the next pitch into the right bleachers to tie it, 4-4.
“We believe in ourselves right down to the very end even if we’re down by a few runs,” said Gardner. “Our fans, I feel like, feel the same way. So we feel that, we feed off that.”
Manager Aaron Boone elected to lift Clint Frazier for pinch hitter Mike Ford with the game tied. Boone, awash in options with the September 1st roster expansion, chose a career minor leaguer who had hit 10 home runs in his first 36 major league games after receiving his first promotion at age 27, over Frazier, not a bad option with 11 home runs in 53 games this season.
Boone’s decision paid off when Ford smashed Hendricks’ offering on a 3-2 count, the ball landing in the bullpen beyond the right centerfield fence. Afterwards, Ford said the moment was a blur.
“I didn’t hear anything, which is crazy,” Ford said. “Just a whole rush of emotion.”
The Yankees became the first club to reach 90 wins on the season, and they found a response to the challenge put forth by the A’s, who won the first four contests in the season series.
The A’s get to erase the disappointment of consecutive, walk-off losses with a cross country flight home before facing the Rangers on Tuesday at the Coliseum.
Sean Manaea made his season debut in the contest, and pitched beautifully, shutting out the Bombers for five innings, allowing just one hit. Manaea gives the A’s tremendous flexibility as a sixth starter in the season’s final month.
Relievers Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit also pitched effectively before Lou Trivino and Hendricks ran into trouble.
Sheldon Neuse’s first major league hit drove in a pair of runs in the seventh to break the scoreless stalemate. Neuse had 58 extra base-hits at Triple-A Las Vegas, forcing himself into the A’s crowded but underwhelming situation at second base. Ironically, Neuse’s double came off Ryan Dull, the former Athletic making his Yankees’ debut.