OAKLAND -- The New York Yankees' puzzling season goes West, and perhaps eventually, south. They follow their encouraging three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the team with the best record in the American League, by dropping the first of a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics, the team with the worst record in the AL. The A's, who started the day 15 games under .500, take this one, 5-4, with two runs in the seventh inning. Brett Gardner's RBI double with two out in the ninth inning made it a one-run game, but Chase Headley's fly out to center ended a frustrating defeat.
Overplaying the ace: The one-time ace, anyway. Joe Girardi's decision to send CC Sabathia out to start the seventh inning, after he had given up a game-tying two-run homer in the sixth, led to the Yankees' unraveling. Sabathia allowed the first two hitters to reach base and was replaced by David Carpenter (gory details below). Sabathia (now 2-7) pitched so-so -- 6 innings, eight hits, a walk, four strikeouts and charged with all five runs -- but the manager probably should have taken the six innings of three-run ball from CC and given his bullpen a clean inning to start with.
Part-time job: The Yankees' six hits and three runs through the first five innings -- and then just one single the rest of the way. And after No. 5 hitter Brian McCann, who had three hits, including a home run, and two RBI, the 6-7-8-9 hitters went 0-for-14 with two walks.
Walk of shame: Although Girardi brought him into a tough situation -- two on, none out, tie game in the seventh -- Carpenter made things worse by allowing a single to Marcus Semien that loaded the bases (Mark Canha was held at third), and then walking Ben Zobrist to force in the go-ahead run. Billy Butler then hit a ball to deep center, the sac fly scoring the A's fifth run of the game.
Tying one on: Sabathia was cruising along with a 3-1 lead until the sixth inning, when he allowed a leadoff double to Zobrist, and after getting two outs, hung a 1-0 slider to Brett Lawrie, who lost it in the leftfield seats for a game-tying two-run home run. It was the 10th home run allowed by Sabathia this season, the team high.
Alex, meet Barry: Alex Rodriguez' fifth-inning sacrifice fly drove in the Yankees third run of the game and pulled him even with Barry Bonds with 1,996 RBIs, good for second place on baseball's all-time list.
Tumblin' in: The Yankees got their second run of the game on a McCann single that brought Rodriguez around from third, but not without some drama. The throw from CF Billy Burns beat Rodriguez home, but he sidestepped C Josh Phegley and tumbled across the plate while trying to swipe with his hand. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox originally called Rodriguez out -- Phegley chased him down and tagged him after he got up -- but the Yankees challenged the call and it turned out Rodriguez had indeed caught the plate with his fingers as he rolled past, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Fan dance: Sabathia got into deep trouble in the third, allowing three straight singles -- one of them a bloop to right that Carlos Beltran seemed to give up on -- with one out in the third, and then got himself out of it with two big strikeouts, getting Semien to swing over a changeup and catching Zobrist looking at a two-seamer to escape any damage.
Road worrier: McCann hit his first home run away from Yankee Stadium -- and seventh of the season -- turning on a 2-1 cutter from Kendall Graveman with one out in the second inning and driving it into the rightfield seats to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. McCann loves hitting in the Bronx -- this was just his fifth home run away from Yankee Stadium (out of 30) in two seasons in pinstripes.
Burned: Sabathia lost his shutout with two outs in the fifth when A's leadoff hitter Burns jumped on a first-pitch slider and hit it into the leftfield stands to cut the Yankees lead to 3-1.