Haren holds off Yankees for 10th win
A's seven-run second inning supports righty's uneven start
NEW YORK -- One of the highlights of Dan Haren's young career came on Mother's Day 2006, when, with his family in the stands, he held the hosts to one run on six hits without a walk in a complete-game victory at Yankee Stadium.
Slowed on Sunday by some sort of bug that's been sweeping through the A's clubhouse for the past several days, Haren didn't pitch nearly that well in the finale of a three-game series against the Yankees. But the day brought another high point for Haren when, in addition to being named to the American League All-Star team, Oakland's offense busted out for the second consecutive day to help him win his 10th consecutive decision, 11-5.
Told of the All-Star honor before taking the field, Haren had an 8-0 lead by the time he took the mound for the bottom of the second inning.
The Yanks chipped away with two runs in that frame, two more in the fourth and one in the six, leaving Haren with a line of five runs on eight hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. But given how he'd been feeling this weekend, Haren was plenty pleased with the final outcome.
"I haven't been able to eat much the past few days, but I felt really good in the bullpen; I thought I was going to have a great day," he said. "And I felt good [early in the game], but I just kind of lost my legs. They started feeling really heavy, and at that point, I just wanted to [reach] the sixth inning and try to save the bullpen a little."
With the victory, the A's closed out their longest road trip of the season on a high note, after having dropped seven of their first eight games in a journey that sandwiched a four-game series in Cleveland with two trips to the Big Apple.
Swept by the Mets last weekend, the A's lost three of four to the Indians and dropped the opener here on Friday before bouncing back with a 7-0 victory on Saturday. The series victory over the struggling Bronx Bombers gave Oakland a much-needed boost of confidence heading home for its final seven games of the first half.
"It was huge to come in here, after losing the first one, and be able to do what we did," said Jack Cust, who got a rare start in the outfield and went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs to lead a 16-hit attack. "It'll be a good feeling to get on that long plane ride home with two wins."
Sunday also marked the numerical midpoint of the season -- game 81 of 162 -- and put the A's three games over .500 at 42-39. Despite having used the disabled list 16 times and playing without several stars much of the way, the A's have been as many as eight games over the break-even mark and never more than two under.
"We've just battled," said third baseman Eric Chavez, who went 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. "We've just mixed and matched ... We've probably played better than we should have, to tell you the truth. We've been kind of vulnerable."
A day after beating up on Kei Igawa, the A's wasted no time making life miserable for a far more celebrated Yankees lefty, Andy Pettitte.
Singles by Mark Ellis and Cust set up an RBI fielder's-choice groundout by Chavez to give Oakland a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and after Haren ripped through the bottom of the frame, striking out Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano to end it, the A's poured it on in the top of the second.
Consecutive singles by Bobby Crosby, Jason Kendall, Mark Kotsay and rookie Kurt Suzuki to open the inning made it 2-0, and after a sacrifice fly by Ellis, Cust slammed a misplaced fastball out to right-center field for a 6-0 lead.
Over his past 15 games, Cust, who added an RBI double in the seventh, is batting .418 (23-for-55) with six homers, four doubles, 16 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
"I feel really good," Cust said. "I'm seeing the ball well and hitting the ball hard. That's all you can do -- have good at-bats and hit the ball hard."
That's the easy part. Cust, who sees most of his time at designated hitter but played the whole game on Sunday in right field, was momentarily confused when it ended.
"I didn't know where to run," he said with a smile. "Usually, I get taken out late in the game."
Chavez followed Cust's team-leading 14th homer with a double, after which Dan Johnson homered for the second time in two days. Johnson ended the trip on a seven-game tear during which he went 11-for-26 (.423) with two doubles, three homers and seven RBIs. He said something "clicked" for him during a pinch-hit appearance against John Maine of the Mets last weekend.
"It was a changeup away, and I stayed on it," he said. "It was a line drive up the middle and they caught it, but I was like, 'Oh, there it is!'"
"He got it going and carried it into New York," A's manager Bob Geren said. "It's really nice to see, because we all know how good he can be."
The Yankees spent the next four innings chipping away at the lead as Haren struggled with his heavy legs, but New York's offense was shut down by Oakland's bullpen.
Dallas Braden got the final two outs of the sixth, fellow rookie Santiago Casilla followed with two scoreless innings of one-hit work and veteran Alan Embree worked a scoreless ninth.
"[Trailing, 8-0] is tough, especially with a guy like Dan Haren on the mound," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "We managed to make it uncomfortable for them, but not uncomfortable enough."
"The bullpen was incredible," marveled Haren, the freshly minted -- but still humble -- All-Star. "And it seems like every time I pitch, Cust hits a three-run homer. A lot of guys have been picking me up lately."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.