Hiroki Kuroda aims to pitch the New York Yankees to a series sweep against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in what has been a thrilling three-game set between potential playoff teams at Yankee Stadium.
After Friday's extra-inning win, New York did itself one better on Saturday, as it rallied from four runs down in the 13th and eventually won, 10-9, in 14 innings.
Eric Chavez singled to start the 14th off of Tyson Ross (2-10) and was replaced on base by Melky Mesa, who was making his MLB debut. A sacrifice bunt by Derek Jeter moved the runner into scoring position and Ichiro Suzuki was then intentionally walked. Alex Rodriguez followed with a single to center that should have drove in the winner, but Mesa missed third as he rounded the bag and had to go back.
"Nobody's going to be perfect out there and we've all made mistakes where we've fumbled balls, forgot how many outs there were, missed bases," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It just happened in his debut, and he won't forget it."
Robinson Cano then hit a grounder to the right of the mound that Ross bobbled, but he recovered and fired home for the second out. Eduardo Nunez followed with a sharp grounder to first and Brandon Moss bobbled the ball, allowing Suzuki to score the winning run.
"When they scored four runs, a lot of fans went home," Ichiro said. "I bet they're shocked to get home and see the score."
New York stayed a game ahead of Baltimore for first place in the AL East. The Orioles defeated the Red Sox in 12 innings earlier on Saturday.
Cory Wade (1-1) got the win for pitching a 1-2-3 top of the 14th inning for the Yankees, who have won a season-high seven consecutive games at home.
Suzuki, Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez each had three hits, with Ibanez smacking a two-run homer in the 13th to tie the game after Oakland had scored four runs in the top of the inning.
Stephen Drew went 4-for-8 with a solo home run and three runs scored, while Moss added three hits for the Athletics, who have dropped five of their last six games, but still hold a 2 1/2-game lead for the final AL wild card spot.
"I don't remember a game quite like that that I've ever been part of. Certainly extra-inning games, long games, games where there are comebacks. But maybe not quite like that," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "There's so many things over the course of that game that could've made it a different outcome."
Kuroda, meanwhile, has been New York's most consistent starter this season and enters the finale having won his last two decisions. Kuroda beat the Tampa Bay Rays last Sunday, despite allowing four runs and six hits in six innings, as he upped his record to 14-10 to go along with a 3.26 ERA.
"None of them were clean hits, so I wish I could have that inning back," Kuroda said of his final frame. "I just had to regroup myself and go after that last hitter."
Kuroda has split his two starts versus the A's, pitching to a 3.21 in the those outings.
Oakland will counter with rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin, who is 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA. Griffin was roughed up by the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday and suffered his first major league loss, as he was ripped for five runs in 4 2/3 innings.
"I just wasn't executing pitches the way I usually do," Griffin said. "I wasn't pounding the zone. I was leaving pitches up, and they capitalized. It happens sometimes."
Griffin had been just the second pitcher since the earned run became a stat in 1912 to be undefeated in at least his first 11 major league starts, while maintaining an ERA under 2.00. The A's went 9-2 in that span.
"Just obviously not his best stuff," manager Bob Melvin said. "We're used to seeing him painting the zone all the time and mixing his pitches. He just was off today. That's the first time we've seen him like that."
Griffin beat the Yankees back on July 19, yielding two runs and seven hits in six innings.
New York has won five of its nine matchups with the A's this season.