By Antonio Gonzalez/The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. — Several players gathered around a high-definition TV on one end of the Oakland Athletics clubhouse, shouting and screaming at the highlights they just made happen with another dose of late-inning drama.
A tying home run. A game-ending single. Players streaming out of the dugout, mobbing the final hitter on the field. A whipped-cream pie in the face — maybe two — and a sports-drink bath to wash it all down.
No matter how many times the scene unfolds, it never seems to get old in Oakland this season.
Seth Smith (0le Miss) hit a tying homer in the ninth inning, Coco Crisp singled home the winning run in the 12th and the surging A’s rallied from four runs down to stun the New York Yankees 5-4 on Sunday and complete a four-game sweep. Oakland improved to 14-2 in July, the best record in the majors during that span, with a league-leading 11th walk-off win.
“I don’t think there was anybody in the dugout or in the stands,” Smith said, “who didn’t think we were going to win.”
Smith homered to center with one out in the ninth off closer Rafael Soriano to force extra innings.
Derek Norris started the final rally with a one-out single off Derek Jeter’s glove at shortstop. Jemile Weeks followed with a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for Crisp to finish off New York.
The AL East-leading Yankees had not been swept in a four-game series since May 2003 against Toronto. All four losses were by one run.
“It’s no fun,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Crisp’s humpback liner to right field on a “nasty sinker” by Cody Eppley (0-2) scored Norris from second without a throw from Andruw Jones, who bobbled the ball as he tried to make the transfer. The A’s came streaming out of the dugout to celebrate their fifth straight victory, grabbing whipped-cream pies that have become so routine that concession workers behind the dugout already have them prepared.
“The music after the game. The pie in the face versus the shaving cream. It’s always a better feeling to win than to lose,” Crisp said. “I guess that’s the thing that I like the most right now.”
Jerry Blevins (3-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory.
A year after Michael Lewis’ best-selling book “Moneyball” — which chronicled the 2002 Athletics — hit the big screen and turned general manager Billy Beane into a starring role played by Brad Pitt, Oakland is suddenly back in the AL playoff chase despite baseball’s lowest opening-day payroll at about $53 million.
By contrast, the Yankees checked in at around $200 million. A pair of New York stars — slugger Alex Rodriguez ($30 million) and ace CC Sabathia ($24.3 million) — are making more money combined this year than all of the A’s.
Still, Oakland is in a three-way tie with Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels for the two American League wild-card spots.
“To keep competing after so many games where you’re so drained and then compete as hard as we’ve competed all year in this game, you’ve got to find that pretty special,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Crisp became the first A’s player to have two game-ending RBIs this season, following his sacrifice fly against Boston on July 3.
Brandon Inge and Kurt Suzuki hit solo home runs off Sabathia, who allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings to outlast former teammate Bartolo Colon.
But the surprising A’s delivered another win because of the long ball.
Smith sent his 11th home run just over the 400-foot sign in center. It was the first homer of the season allowed by Soriano, who blew his second save in 26 chances this season while filling in for injured Mariano Rivera.
“Everybody has a bad day,” Soriano said. “Today was the second time for me.”
The Yankees had chances to rally back.
After singles by Robinson Cano and Eric Chavez, Grant Balfour struck out Jeter looking for the final out of New York’s 10th inning.
Josh Reddick had trouble with Mark Teixeira’s fly ball in the sun in right field leading off the 12th. The ball glanced off Reddick’s glove for an error, and Teixeira slid in safely at second after shortstop Eric Sogard couldn’t handle the throw.
Blevins forced flyouts by Cano, Raul Ibanez and Chavez between an intentional walk to Rodriguez to keep the game tied.
Strong pitching carried Oakland all series — and has all month, really.
The Yankees chased Colon after he allowed eight hits and one intentional walk in 6 2-3 innings. Colon struck out five while tossing 84 pitches.
Teixeira blooped an RBI single to center for the fourth straight soft single to begin the third inning, and Rodriguez drove in a pair with a one-out double off the wall in left-center to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
Curtis Granderson followed with a two-out shot in the fourth — on an 0-2 pitch from Colon — that landed in the seats in right field for his 26th home run.
Inge and Suzuki each hit solo home runs to left in the fifth to slice New York’s lead to 4-2. The long ball was the 10th this season for Inge and first for Suzuki, who snapped a career-long drought of 78 games.
It was the third time this year that Sabathia, who grew up about 30 miles north of Oakland in Vallejo, has allowed two home runs in a game.
The A’s picked up another run in the sixth when Inge beat out a potential double play to allow Yoenis Cespedes to score.
The four-game sweep was a far cry from New York’s first visit to Oakland in late May when the Yankees overwhelmed the A’s in a three-game sweep to extend their winning streak at the Coliseum to nine games. That was part of a nine-game overall losing streak for the A’s, who have recovered to post the second-best record in the majors behind the Yankees since June 2.
NOTES: Oakland’s opening-day starter, RHP Brandon McCarthy (strained shoulder), is scheduled to toss three innings Wednesday at the team’s facility in Arizona. McCarthy hasn’t pitched since June 19. … Oakland has Monday off before opening a three-game series at Toronto on Tuesday. The Yankees begin a three-game series at Seattle on Monday.
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