NEW YORK -- As Russell Martin galloped down the third-base line, taking a moment to see how far he could possibly fling his batting helmet, the Yankees clustered at home plate to celebrate what most agreed was their biggest hit of the season.
The schedule is growing thin, the games are becoming more crucial, and the Yankees went home with exactly what they needed on this night. Martin's 10th-inning blast was the game-winner, lifting New York to a 2-1 victory over the Athletics on Friday at Yankee Stadium.
"There's pressure, but it's fun; it's a fun atmosphere," Martin said. "There's a lot of energy in the crowd, you can feel the weather change a little bit. Playoff weather is coming. I like it. I enjoy it. I'm ready for it."
Martin delivered his second walk-off homer of the season, this one off Oakland's Sean Doolittle, as the Yankees won their sixth straight game and posted their 11th victory in the last 16 games.
"Russ going deep, that was huge," said Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, who pitched eight scoreless innings in a no-decision. "We haven't had a lot of walk-offs here since 2009. To get that one, it was great."
New York maintained a one-game lead in the American League East as the Orioles defeated the Red Sox in Boston, and manager Joe Girardi said Martin's hit might be the most important of the season thus far.
"Probably, yeah," Girardi said. "I would have to say so. With 13 games to go, we're fighting for the division and that's just a huge hit."
Martin sent the Yankees home smiling after Sabathia's dominant work was only good for a no-decision, as Brandon Moss slugged a pinch-hit solo homer off Rafael Soriano in the ninth to tie the game.
"The only thing you're going to hit off of him is a mistake anyway," Moss said, "because obviously he's one of the best closers in the game right now, filling in for the best closer in the game."
Moss' one-out blast to right field marked Soriano's fourth blown save in 46 chances this season, and it shouldn't erase the shine from Sabathia's 11-strikeout performance, the type of outing that the Yankees have been waiting for their ace to provide.
"I always feel like I need an outing like this, especially with the race being as tight as it is," Sabathia said. "Being able to get tonight, it feels good."
Sabathia fanned 10 or more batters for the fifth time this season, setting down 15 of the first 16 batters he faced before Stephen Drew's clean single to center field leading off the sixth inning.
Pitching with just a one-run lead as Oakland starter Jarrod Parker kept pace over his eight strong innings of work, Sabathia had no letdown after hearing a warm round of applause from the Bronx crowd, continuing his roll through a free-swinging Oakland lineup.
"I know it's been a season where it hasn't been vintage CC," Girardi said, "but here's a guy with an ERA under 3.50 [3.47] and we're not calling it vintage CC. That's how good he is. Tonight might have been the best game he's pitched all year."
Wielding a biting slider and effective changeups as his best weapons, Sabathia walked two and permitted just three hits in a 113-pitch showing.
"For CC, I think it's been tough for him to put guys away, really," Martin said. "Today, he had the stuff to put them away. He got some good first-pitch outs on some good located fastballs. He just looked like he was in control and feeling good about himself out there."
Sabathia pitched out of trouble in the eighth, permitting two hits -- one of the infield variety -- and hitting Jonny Gomes to load the bases, but Josh Reddick flew out to end the threat.
"I've been feeling pretty good," Sabathia said. "It's just a couple situations of not being able to make pitches in the last couple games. Being able to do it tonight, it definitely gives me confidence to go out in five days and try to do it again."
New York notched its only run off Parker in the fourth inning as Nick Swisher singled, moved to third base on an Alex Rodriguez single and scored on Curtis Granderson's sacrifice fly.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter tied his season high by extending his hitting streak to 15 games, doing so in the sixth inning off Parker, who scattered six hits while walking none and striking out seven.
"You know before the game that you're going to need to be locked in," Parker said. "CC was over there just exchanging blows. He had great stuff tonight and it showed."
It hasn't been the best season for Martin, but he may be turning things around just in time to wipe away all the harsh memories of a sub-.200 batting average that frustrated the second-year Yankees catcher.
"Russell has been a clutch player for a good part of his career," Girardi said. "He's been in big moments, he's been in playoff spots. He's a good player."
In fact, Martin received honors as the Yankees' September Player of the Month this week, despite the fact that the month is hardly complete. As long as Martin keeps producing big hits like this, nobody is about to challenge that call.
"We're in September. Every win is magnified," Martin said. "We're just taking it one game at a time. Hopefully we can keep it up."