Joba Chamberlain looked toward Jorge Posada behind home plate, nodded his head at the signal and sent another pitch zipping past Oakland’s Eric Patterson.
The fiery young right-hander pumped his fist as he spun off the mound and headed for the dugout, the fifth-inning strikeout stranding two runners in scoring position. It was the only real trouble Chamberlain got in while pitching the Yankees to their eighth straight win.
“Emotion is real important to him,” manager Joe Girardi said, after the Yankees‘ 8-3 victory Friday night. “I don’t think he’s showing anybody up. I think he feeds off that emotion.”
The Yankees have been feasting off something lately.
Derek Jeter drove in two runs and passed Ted Williams on the career hit list, Johnny Damon drove in three runs and Posada hit a solo homer for the Yankees, who are 21-5 over the last month to take over first place in the AL East. They lead the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games.
Oakland has lost eight straight to New York and 17 of 26 overall.
“You just have to take it day by day. We’re not coming in here saying we have any streaks,” said Jeter, whose three hits gave him 2,655. “You just try to ride the wave as long as you can, try to keep it going.”
Chamberlain (6-2) was dominant for the second straight start, giving up a run and two hits pitching into the eighth inning. He struck out six in his longest outing since June 1.
He credited a trip home to Nebraska over the All-Star break for getting his mindset right.
“I’m just having fun, back to being myself,” Chamberlain said. “It’s hard to be good at this game. You’re going to have your failures, but it’s how you react to those failures.”
The stumbling A’s are learning that lesson.
They wasted another decent start from young Brett Anderson (5-8), who came in riding a 21-inning scoreless streak. He lost for the first time in six starts, done in by an offense that couldn’t score runs even when it had Matt Holliday.
The three-time All-Star was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals earlier Friday for three minor league prospects, taking one of the A’s hottest bats out of the middle of the order. Holliday’s trade had been widely expected, with Oakland (40-55) off to its worst start since 1997.
“This is a resilient team,” manager Bob Geren said, when asked about losing Holliday. “I think that it just gives someone else an opportunity to go out there and play.”
Things began promising for the A’s, with Orlando Cabrera hitting a one-out double and scoring on Scott Hairston‘s sacrifice fly in the first inning. But they managed only one other hit against Chamberlain, who has allowed five total in his last two starts.
The Yankees‘ eight-game winning streak has been a testament to their pitching more than anything. This was the first time they had won by more than three runs, and it was their best offensive showing in nine games.
“It’s one of the toughest lineups in the league,” Anderson said, “if not the toughest.”
New York took the lead for good in the third, when Damon followed Jeter’s RBI single with a broken-bat dribbler to first. Daric Barton fielded the ball and threw to Cabrera covering second, but his throw back to first for an attempted double play plunked Damon in the hip, allowing Melky Cabrera to score.
Damon’s fielder’s choice in the fifth made it 3-1, and Hideki Matsui added an RBI groundout in the sixth. Posada ensured closer Mariano Rivera got the night off with his solo shot in the eighth, and the Yankees tacked on three more runs off the A’s ineffective bullpen.
“We’ve faced some good pitching this last week or so,” Jeter said, “but we’ve been getting some timely hitting.”
The A’s recalled Patterson from Sacramento to fill Holliday’s roster spot. He arrived at the ballpark just before the start of the game. … Jeter is 68th on the career hits list. He needs five to tie Harry Heilmann and George Davis. … The Yankees‘ eight-game win streak against the A’s is their longest since July 16, 1993-April 30, 1994.