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OAK@NYY: Pennington's three-run blast extends lead

NEW YORK -- A darkening sky moved furiously over Yankee Stadium on Thursday evening, one lengthy storm having already passed through and another on its way above the field.

In the Bronx, the former wasn't defined so much by the one-hour, 29-minute rain delay that slowed the start of the A's series finale against the Yankees, but more so by the wild tempest that took place after.

Oakland fell victim to a historic Yankees rout, a 22-9 pounding. By day's end, it was just one loss. But it also resulted in multiple records that were never necessarily meant to be broken.

The 22 runs allowed were an Oakland record and the most offered up in A's history since a 29-6 loss against Chicago in 1955. Twelve of the Yankees' runs on Thursday were the result of three grand slams, marking the first time in Major League history any team had tallied that many in a game.

"It's pretty amazing," said Yankees catcher Russell Martin, who hit the second slam. "This game has been played for a long time. Pretty much everything has already happened. I'm waiting to see who's going to hit four -- I don't know if it's ever going to happen, but we'll see."

The A's weren't as amused by the feat. And perhaps even more disheartening was the fact that there were also 10 Yankees runs not scored via grand slams. Most can be traced back to walks. The A's issued 13 free passes -- the most since they walked 13 on Sept. 1, 1995, against the Yankees -- and watched their bullpen allow 12 walks, an Oakland record.

Jordan Norberto was responsible for five of the walks, and he was one of six A's hurlers on the day who combined to throw 235 pitches over a span of four hours and 31 minutes, which added to the list of Oakland records -- this one for longest nine-inning game.

"That was rough, to say the least," said righty Bruce Billings, who tossed 57 of those pitches and walked four. "We definitely don't want to go out there and do that."

"It only counts as one," manager Bob Melvin said. "Unfortunately, it was embarrassing."

It was just months ago, before the onset of injuries and underachieving play blurred visions of contention, that the A's were tabbed as a potential postseason threat.

Such a notion has vanished, but that same club has inherited the role of spoiler -- a responsibility that entails duties not so favorable against teams like the Yankees, who fell victim to the A's scrappy attack on Monday and Tuesday.

But on Thursday, it was the Yankees who were disguised as spoilers -- more like middle-school bullies or, rather, middle-inning bullies, as they sent 40 men to the plate between the fifth and eighth innings while erasing what was once a comfortable 7-1 A's lead, scoring 15 unanswered runs.

Had the A's clung to their early six-run advantage, it would have marked the first time they had swept a series from the Bronx Bombers since June 2006 in New York. Still, just by winning the series, the A's snapped a 10-series losing streak to the Yankees -- the longest such stretch in Oakland history against any team.

So despite Thursday's disheartening loss, the A's opened an intimidating 10-game road swing through New York, Boston and Cleveland with an encouraging series win.

Not one day of Oakland's stay in the Big Apple, though, was exactly pretty. Closer Andrew Bailey's ninth-inning meltdown on Tuesday nearly wiped away a sizable A's lead, and a back-and-forth game on Wednesday went into the 10th inning, when Coco Crisp's three-run homer set up the win. Thursday, though, was downright ugly.

With his team up, 7-2, through four innings, starter Rich Harden left Oakland with just a one-run advantage thanks to Robinson Cano's fifth-inning grand slam. The homer wiped away an otherwise respectable start from the righty, who gave up two other runs -- the latter a fourth-inning solo shot to Martin.

"On the home run, it was a changeup I wanted middle-down, middle-away, and it just kind of cut back into his bat," Harden said. "It's a tough one. We got out to a pretty big early lead against this team and this lineup."

New York's second grand slam came just an inning later, this one a go-ahead shot from Martin against righty Fautino De Los Santos, who had loaded the bases on three walks, the last an intentional free pass issued to Nick Swisher.

Martin's heroic ways, which culminated in a five-hit, six-RBI day and two home runs, let starting pitcher Phil Hughes off the hook after the Yankees right-hander had been pushed aside following just 2 2/3 innings, having allowed six runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

A dose of small ball got the A's going in the first inning, and power put them ahead temporarily in a five-run third, which was highlighted by Cliff Pennington's sixth homer of the season -- a first-pitch three-run shot off Yankees reliever Cory Wade.

"We had a lead and couldn't hold it, and it just got out of hand," Melvin said. "Once we got into the middle innings, we couldn't stop it. It's a good offensive club, and we got behind in the count with bad pitches."

The slugfest included a pair of six-run frames -- the seventh and eighth -- the latter which brought about grand slam No. 3, a blast from Curtis Granderson off Billings, who got pounded for seven earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings.

"I was looking at it, hoping it was not going to get out," Billings said. "I'm not trying to think about not giving up another grand slam there -- just trying to make a pitch. You're trying to slow the game down as much as possible. It just seemed like if I did make a pitch, trying to make another right after, I couldn't."

Unfortunately, it was an overwhelming trend.

"It was one of those days that, with anybody pitching, just not a good day," Harden said. "They had to battle against a tough lineup, especially the way they were swinging today. They were fouling off good pitches, hitting good pitches and hitting mistakes, too.

"It's frustrating, but we still have a game tomorrow, and that's where everybody's focus is going to be. It's over. It's behind us. Not much you can do about it now."

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