OAKLAND, Calif. — Maybe a game-winning, broken-bat hit against baseball’s career saves leader in the 18th inning will get Nate Freiman in a nice groove again.
Freiman singled home the winning run against Mariano Rivera, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday for a three-game sweep.
“It was his deal,” Freiman said of the cut fastball he saw. “That one he always throws.”
As a day game after a night game turned into a night game after a day game, John Jaso singled off Preston Claiborne (0-1) to start the decisive rally and went to third on Seth Smith’s soft single to shallow left field against Rivera.
Rivera issued only the 39th intentional walk of his 19-year career to Jed Lowrie before Freiman ended the 5-hour, 35-minute game on New York’s getaway day to Anaheim for a weekend series with the Angels.
“A little broken-bat blooper over the third baseman, and the other one the same place,” Rivera said. “You can’t do anything about it.”
Freiman knew he had it, raising his right arm in triumph.
“I knew that was not getting to the left fielder. I knew it was falling,” he said.
Moments later, Freiman received a celebratory whipped cream pie in the face following his first career game-ending hit — and Oakland’s fifth of 2013 after compiling a major league-best 14 walk-off wins last year. He had entered the game in the top of the 16th.
The AL West-leading A’s (41-27) won their 11th in a row at home, 21st in 26 overall, and moved a season-best 14 games above .500 to extend their best start since 1990. They became the first American League team to play two 18-inning games in one season since Oakland and the Washington Senators did so in 1971.
Freiman’s wife, LPGA golfer Amanda Blumenherst, quickly congratulated her husband on Twitter: “Ahhh!! Nate just ended the 18 inning game! Bases loaded, single!! Pie in the face! Athletics win!”
Each team used seven pitchers and threw 255 pitches. In all, 137 batters came to the plate — short of the season high of 156 during Oakland’s 19-inning win over the Angels in April and also the 20-inning game between the Marlins and Mets last Saturday.
“It was very taxing even winning the game. To lose could have been demoralizing,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “These are awful games to lose.”
New York made a dramatic play in the bottom of the 15th to keep the game going.
Pinch-hitter Coco Crisp singled to left with one out and Vernon Wells made a perfect throw to catcher Chris Stewart, who blocked the plate and absorbed a collision to prevent Brandon Moss from scoring the winning run.
The A’s had already begun streaming out of the dugout to celebrate.
The Yankees had runners in scoring position in each of the extra innings through 14, stranding 11 baserunners. They left 13 on base in all while dropping their seventh in a row at the Oakland Coliseum.
Pitching for the first time in eight days, Jesse Chavez (1-0) struck out seven in 5 2-3 scoreless innings.
Chavez fanned Kevin Youkilis and Wells with two on to end the 13th, then Travis Hafner and Wells in the 15th.
Jerry Blevins escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 11th with two strikeouts. Pat Neshek worked out of trouble with runners on first and second in the 12th.
Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer in the first as New York ended a season-long five-game stretch without a long ball, but the Yankees didn’t score again on another day of missed opportunities.
“I think it’s probably a little more frustrating because you can look at how you had an opportunity here and an opportunity there,” manager Joe Girardi said. “A lot of guys probably look at that, but it doesn’t change the result.”
It was the longest day game in Coliseum history.
Neither A’ starter Jarrod Parker nor New York counterpart Hiroki Kuroda got a decision after a nice pitchers’ duel hours before the game ended.
After Smith’s tying, two-out double in the third, Oakland didn’t reach base again until Jaso’s bloop single leading off the ninth.
Oakland won the season series 5-1 for its second-best mark against the Yankees in franchise history. The 1990 club went 12-0.
The A’s tied it at 2 in the third on a close play at the plate. Smith doubled off the wall in right and the relay throw was on target to Stewart, who tagged Jaso with his glove but had the ball in his bare hand.
Jaso was called safe by plate umpire CB Bucknor, drawing an argument from Girardi.
Earlier in the inning, Derek Norris’ RBI groundout scored Chris Young, who drew a leadoff walk. Eric Sogard followed with a single before the A’s pulled off a double steal.
Parker, riding a three-start winning streak, was helped by a pair of double plays in the first four innings.
Kuroda’s winless stretch reached five starts since he beat Toronto on May 17. He became the third Japanese-born pitcher with 1,000 innings in the majors, joining Hideo Nomo and Tomo Ohka.
Girardi bumped Jayson Nix up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order from eighth a night earlier to shake things up and get the Yankees going, but Nix went 1 for 5 with a strikeout to end the 12th.
ORIOLES 5, RED SOX 4, 13 INNINGS
BALTIMORE — Chris Davis singled home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the 13th inning, giving the Orioles an exhausting victory over the Red Sox in the opener of a four-game series between AL East contenders.
Danny Valencia homered for the Orioles, who moved into second place and within 2½ games of Boston. Baltimore won despite leaving 16 on base and going 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
With two outs in the 13th, Nick Markakis drew a walk from Alex Wilson (1-1). Adam Jones singled and Davis followed with an opposite-field pop that landed in front of left fielder Daniel Nava.
T.J. McFarland (1-0) pitched the 13th to earn his first major league win.
ROYALS 10, RAYS 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Elliot Johnson had a three three-run homer for his second hit of an eight-run sixth inning, leading the surging Kansas City Royals to a 10-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Johnson, who was traded to Kansas City by the Rays in February, led off the big inning with a single and chased Jeremy Hellickson (4-3) with his second homer of the season, both coming against Tampa Bay.
Johnson got his third hit of the game in the eighth inning and is 6 for 11 with four RBIs against his former team while batting .202 with three RBIs against every other team.
Ervin Santana (5-5) gave up five hits and an unearned run in 7 2-3 innings.
The Royals have won eight of nine.
BLUE JAYS 3, RANGERS 1
ARLINGTON, Texas — Edwin Encarnacion hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning and the Blue Jays handed the Rangers their third straight loss.
The slumping Rangers wasted another solid outing by Yu Darvish, who has made five consecutive starts without a victory.
Neal Cotts (2-1) replaced Darvish to start the eighth, when Emilio Bonifacio reached on a throwing error by Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre. Munenori Kawasaki had a sacrifice bunt before Tanner Scheppers, the second reliever, walked Jose Bautista before the double by Encarnacion.
Esmil Rogers (2-2) allowed one run over seven innings, the same as Darvish, who struck out nine.
PHILLIES 3, TWINS 2
MINNEAPOLIS — Cliff Lee allowed two runs in seven strong innings, Ben Revere had four hits and scored the go-ahead run, and the Phillies rallied to beat the Twins and snap a five-game losing streak.
The speedy Revere slid home with nobody out in the eighth, scoring from third base on Jimmy Rollins’ chopper. First baseman Justin Morneau was playing in, but his throw was too late to catch Revere — formerly of the Twins.
Lee (8-2) gave up only one hit and faced the minimum number of batters through 6 1-3 innings before Joe Mauer walked.
Pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen opened the eighth with a double against reliever Jared Burton (0-4) and scored the tying run on Michael Young’s single.