When Rafael Soriano gave up a tying homer in the ninth inning to spoil CC Sabathia’s dominant start, the Yankees didn’t get down. They knew what they needed to do to keep their AL East lead.
Russell Martin led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a homer off Sean Doolittle, and New York maintained its one-game division lead by beating the Oakland Athletics 2-1 Friday night for its sixth straight win.
"Good teams get each other’s back," Martin said.
Sabathia pitched encouraging three-hit ball over eight innings to help the Yankees stay ahead of Baltimore, which beat Boston 4-2 for its fifth straight win. The A’s, losers of four of five, dropped a game back of the Orioles for the top wild-card spot. Oakland started the day with a 4-game lead over the Angels.
Pinch-hitter Brandon Moss hit a towering home run to right field with one out in the ninth off Soriano to tie it 1-all and stun the boisterous crowd of 40,759 into silence. It was Soriano’s fourth blown save in 46 chances.
"His arm may have been a little dead today," Joe Girardi said of Soriano, who saved both games of a doubleheader Wednesday against Toronto.
But Soriano disagreed. He said he had "normal soreness" and would go through his routine Saturday before letting his manager know if he will be available.
Curtis Granderson had a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning off Jarrod Parker and Ichiro Suzuki continued his torrid pace with two more hits — one getting caught in Parker’s jersey.
The Yankees lost four-straight one-run games in Oakland in mid-July that began a summer swoon in which they blew a 10-game division lead. Martin’s second walk-off homer this season gave the Yankees their 11th win in 15 games.
"You can feel that playoff weather coming," Martin said. "I like it. I enjoy it."
David Robertson (2-7) pitched a perfect 10th for the victory. Doolittle (1-1) pitched the ninth before giving up Martin’s homer on an 0-1 pitch.
The catcher flinged his helmet almost all the way to first base as he approached home then was engulfed by his teammates as he stepped on home plate.
"Right off the bat I knew it was gone," Sabathia said. "He called a great game tonight and kept the guys off-balance and it worked out."
Parker was in line for a loss before Moss’ homer despite matching Sabathia for eight innings. He gave up six hits and struck out seven in his first start at Yankee Stadium.
"It’s really frustrating," Doolittle said. "He did such an unbelievable job going toe-to-toe with Sabathia."
Sabathia’s performance had become one of the biggest question marks in the Yankees rotation the past several weeks. The big lefty was 0-3 in his last four starts and he gave up leads in each outing. After two stints on the disabled list, his velocity was down but he insisted he was OK. Girardi said Sabathia was struggling with the command of his sinker and changeup.
He quickly put that to rest by striking out the side in the first with three breaking pitches. His velocity went up as the innings went by, ending the sixth by blowing a 96-mph fastball past Jonny Gomes.
"I was just trying not to overthrow. I felt pretty good coming out of the bullpen," Sabathia said. "I just wanted to make sure I kept my delivery together and make sure I commanded the ball. The velocity will come and go so it’s up to me to make pitches."
After a walk to Gomes with one out in the first, Sabathia retired 14 in a row before Stephen Drew singled leading off the sixth.
Sabathia gave up another hit to Drew with one out in the eighth. With two outs, Collin Cowgill beat out an infield single and Sabathia grazed Gomes with a pitch to load the bases.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound as Robertson warmed up in the bullpen. But Sabathia remained and got J.J. Reddick to fly out to left field on the first pitch of the at-bat, ending the inning.
The A’s lead the majors in striking out and they fanned 11 times while walking twice against Sabathia.
"You want him feeling good about himself, confident," Martin said. "I think he definitely needed this start for himself."
Any questions about Parker being nervous in his first start in the Bronx were dismissed right away with an eight pitch inning. He didn’t give up a hit until he lost Suzuki’s bouncer back to the mound with one out in the third inning in his jersey. Parker grimaced in frustration as he failed to pull the ball out of his green and gold top.
The hit was Suzuki’s 10th in his last 13 at-bats. Suzuki also had a hit in the sixth but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
The Yankees scored in the fourth when Nick Swisher led off with a more traditional hit, a lined single to right field. Alex Rodriguez followed with a sharp single to center field. Granderson then hit a sacrifice fly.
Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to a season high-tying streak of 15 games with a sixth-inning single.
New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck helped the Bleacher Creatures do the "Roll Call" in the first inning. … Oakland LHP Jordan Norberto (shoulder tendinitis), out since Aug. 18, is close to playing catch. … INF Eric Sogard (high ankle sprain) is doing some baseball activity but manager Bob Melvin doesn’t see him as an option on the remainder of the road trip. … Oakland’s LHP Travis Blackley (5-3) faces the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (12-7) Saturday afternoon. … Girardi and Rodriguez both visited The Starkey Hearing Foundation meeting at Yankee Stadium and helped hand out digital hearing aids.