- Last Updated: 9:50 AM, July 20, 2012
- Posted: 2:40 AM, July 20, 2012
OAKLAND, Calif. — As always happens in baseball, time eventually will dictate the Athletics’ fate. Will they continue to be a player in the AL wild-card race? Or fizzle in August, a cruel month that strangles so many upstarts.
Last night at the O.Co Coliseum, the sizzling A’s looked every bit of a contender when they handed the Yankees a 4-3 loss in front of 23,382.
How bad of a draw are the A’s? Even with the Yankees in town the A’s attempted to set a world record by inviting ticket holders to bring their dogs to the game. The marketing gimmick drew 718 dogs.
Nevertheless, the A’s have won six of seven and are a MLB-best 11-2 in July. They started the night one-half game behind the Tigers for the second wild-card ticket and stayed there when the Tigers beat the Angels, who are the leader for the first wild-card spot.
Neophyte right-hander A.J. Griffin in his fifth big league start, allowed two runs, seven hits and didn’t walk a batter in six innings. The 24-year-old is 2-0.
“He changed speeds and moved the ball around,’’ Raul Ibanez said of Griffin, who retired 11 straight batters in the second through six innings. “He did a good job.’’
Freddy Garcia wasn’t awful but did surrender four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings and fell to 4-3.
Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run homer off Garcia in the first inning on a curveball.
“It was down, a pretty good pitch,’’ Garcia said. “He hit it good. I can’t do much about it. That’s the way he swings.’’
As for the overall picture, Garcia said he knew it was going to be a struggle.
“I couldn’t find my stuff [tonight],’’ Garcia said. “I couldn’t find any of my pitches. If I can’t hit spots ... I don’t throw 95-mph. For most of the game, I couldn’t make pitches when I wanted.’’
Trailing, 4-2, in the ninth, Nick Swisher pulled the Yankees within a run with a one-out homer off All Star closer Ryan Cook. But Ibanez whiffed and Russell Martin grounded out to end it.
The loss coupled with the second-place Orioles beating the Twins, shaved the Yankees’ AL East lead to nine lengths. It was just their third loss in a dozen games.
When Derek Jeter opened the sixth with a sharp single to right, he stopped a string of 11 straight batters retired by Griffin. After Curtis Granderson fanned, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano singled to load the bases for Mark Teixeira.
His fly ball to deep center scored Jeter and sent Rodriguez to third. Swisher’s single to center scored Rodriguez and cut the deficit to 4-2.
Cano’s single extended his hitting streak to 22 games, and Jeter’s run was the 1,822 of his career and tied him with Eddie Collins for 15th place on the all-time list.
Garcia exited with two outs and a runner on first in the sixth. David Phelps, recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Wednesday, replaced Garcia and kept it at 4-2 by slipping a called third strike by Jemile Weeks.
Phelps retired all seven batters he faced and fanned four of them.
As for Griffin, manager Joe Girardi said he was impressed.
“He locates the baseball and changes speeds,’’ Girardi said of the pitcher whose fastball was 90 to 91 and curveball dropped into the low 60s. “He throws strikes.’’Follow @NYPostsports