A's snap Yanks' streak with late rally
Six-run seventh inning backs impressive start by Gonzalez
NEW YORK -- Andrew Bailey has a nickname for the internal fantasy land deep within Gio Gonzalez's head. He calls it "Gio World," and it's where Gonzalez spends a lot of time during each of his starts. Whether Gonzalez is able to control the demons and emotions that inhabit "Gio World" often determines his success.
On Saturday, "Gio World" was represented physically by the tunnel leading to the A's clubhouse. Instead of sitting in the dugout with his teammates, Gonzalez took refuge between innings in a dark, quiet hallway to regain his composure.
Manager Bob Geren wanted to keep Gonzalez out of the scorching heat drenching Yankee Stadium, but the unorthodox instruction had some desirable side effects. Gonzalez, who is often victimized by his own feistiness, held the powerful Yankees to just one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings and led the A's to a 6-4 win over the Yankees in front of 46,412.
Oakland batted around in a six-run seventh inning to take the lead. Backup catcher Landon Powell's two-run, two-out single with the bases loaded broke a 1-1 tie and was the integral hit in the game-winning rally.
"Bob wanted me to sit in the tunnel and just go out there, stay focused, concentrate," Gonzalez said. "He didn't want me to be distracted or anything like that. He just told me after every inning to sit down, relax."
The strategy seemed to work perfectly. Gonzalez took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, only to have it broken up by Melky Cabrera on a two-out bunt single. He had retired 13 consecutive batters before that hit.
For the first six innings, though, New York's Andy Pettitte matched zeroes. The Yankees broke through first in the bottom of the sixth, when Derek Jeter walked with one out and Brett Gardner knocked him in with a triple into the right-center-field gap.
Pressure situations have historically been Gonzalez's undoing, but on Saturday, he maintained his composure and retired Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez on groundouts to leave the runner stranded and escape the threat with minimal damage.
It may have been the the turning point of the entire game, as the Yankees were a fly ball away from taking a two-run lead and perhaps rattling Gonzalez.
"I just walked by him [between innings], and he looked a little frustrated," Geren said. "I said to him, 'The New York Yankees score runs once in a while.' He started laughing, and I said, 'Don't worry about it and relax.' And I laughed."
The offense appeared motivated by Gonzalez's clutch pitching and broke through in the seventh. Rajai Davis drove in the tying run with a single and Bobby Crosby followed with a hit of his own to load the bases with one out. Manager Joe Girardi turned to reliever Alfredo Aceves, who induced Mark Ellis to pop out in the infield on one pitch.
Aceves then worked Powell to an 0-2 count and was a pitch away from wiggling out of the inning with the score still tied, but Powell punched an opposite-field single to plate the go-ahead runs. It proved to be the key hit of the game, and four more runs crossed with two outs to give Oakland an insurmountable 6-1 lead.
"Being the young guy and hitting at the bottom of the order and a guy who doesn't play a lot, I think I get some good pitches to hit a lot of times when I get in situations," Powell said. "I try to go up there and be as aggressive as I can."
The Yankees attempted to stage a late-inning rally, and made things difficult for the A's bullpen. Michael Wuertz surrendered home runs to Jeter and Teixeira in the eighth to cut the lead to 6-4.
In the ninth, Bailey walked Cabrera and pinch-hitter Johnny Damon, but induced Jorge Posada to ground into a double play and retired Jeter to seal his 11th save.
Saturday was an important comeback for Gonzalez, who was coming off the worst outing of his young career. Against the Twins on Monday, he allowed 11 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings to balloon his ERA to 9.33. Jeter said that the Yankees players were shocked to see Gonzalez's statistics after facing him and called Gonzalez's performance "outstanding."
Keeping Gonzalez under control has been a difficult task for Geren and pitching coach Curt Young. But when they have accomplished it, the results have been tremendous. Coming off a start the A's desperately want to forget, Gonzalez proved that he may still be a work in progress, but could be worth the wait.
Just as long as he can keep conquering "Gio World."
"It was his command, it's simple," Geren said. "He is talented. He has velocity and movement on his fastball, he has one of the sharper breaking balls in the game. He's very young, he's emotional. He has to command the strike zone and his emotions, and he's learning."
Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.