Suzuki's early homer holds up for A's
Three-game skid ends behind Braden's six strong innings
OAKLAND -- Dallas Braden's face exuded zero sign of color following the lefty's fourth start Thursday.
His words, however, exploded like a rainbow and experienced no ill effect to whatever bug was running through his body.
Essentially, Braden was his usual self -- on the mound and during his postgame talk -- despite battling a sickness that forced him to take an IV shot following his third straight victory -- a 4-2 A's win over the visiting Yankees.
Braden, whose illness kept him away from the field Wednesday, could only muster 81 pitches. But it was enough for six solid innings of work before handing a lead over to an equally impressive A's bullpen, which combined for three shutout innings of one-hit ball.
"He shut down one of the best offenses in the league," manager Bob Geren said. "You wouldn't know he was sick when he was out there, but you would know in between innings. He was very, very ill. He did not look good the whole game. We were literally going inning by inning with him, but he kept going out there.
"That's not the first time we've seen him battling like that. He's one of the toughest competitors I've ever been around. I was real proud of him."
So was his batterymate, who pretty much stole every ounce of Braden's thunder by not only blasting a three-run homer off New York starter CC Sabathia to left field in the first, but by grounding into the club's first triple play since May 14, 1994, at Kansas City -- where Geronimo Berroa did it.
"It felt great," Suzuki joked. "The homer's going to be off the TV in a day and the triple play is going to be on forever. I figured out a way to stay on TV."
With runners at first and second and the A's leading, 4-2, in the sixth, Suzuki chopped a hard-hit grounder to Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees' third baseman ran to the bag to force out Daric Barton before firing to Robinson Cano at second base to nail Ryan Sweeney. Cano then whipped the ball over to Nick Johnson at first base to complete the Yankees' first triple play in 42 years.
"The whole time I was running down the line, I was thinking, 'Don't throw it to second. Uh-oh,'" Suzuki explained. "I wasn't really angry just because we had the lead and it was late in the game."
A former teammate of Suzuki -- Matt Holliday -- happened to be the last player in Major League history to tally a home run and hit into a triple play in the same game. Holliday, now with St. Louis, did it while playing for the Rockies on Sept. 12, 2007.
"If I can win some batting titles like him," Suzuki said with a smile, "that'll be fine, I guess."
Without the catcher's home run, though, the A's could have easily found themselves victims of a three-game sweep. Sabathia, a Bay Area native, tossed an eight-inning complete game, but was obviously struggling in the first frame.
That much was evident when he quickly issued walks to Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney, who both eventually found their way across home plate when Suzuki belted his team-leading third homer of the year.
"What you don't want to do is swing the bat freely against a guy who starts off a game struggling," Geren said. "So what you have to do is tighten up your zone and have the confidence to be aggressive when you think you have the opportunity."
"With a guy like CC out there, you don't wait around," Suzuki said. "You have to get to him early. I just went up there trying to get a good pitch early. Good thing I didn't miss it."
The homer came exactly one year to the day after Suzuki hit a three-run shot off Sabathia at Yankee Stadium.
The A's made it a 4-0 game in the fourth thanks to a sacrifice fly off the bat of Adam Rosales. In the meantime, Braden posted four consecutive zeroes before surrendering homers to Marcus Thames and Mark Teixeira in the fifth and sixth innings to narrow his club's lead to two.
"After that last inning, he basically said he couldn't go anymore," Geren said of his starter, who improved to 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA.
Righty Brad Ziegler followed Braden's gutty outing with two perfect innings, and Andrew Bailey officially sent the Yankees on their way after closing out the ninth to garner his second save of the year.
It was more than a well-deserved victory for Braden, who spent much of his postgame chat fielding questions about his sixth-inning tiff with Rodriguez. A-Rod disobeyed what Braden said was one of baseball's unwritten rules by jogging across the pitching mound following a foul ball off the bat of Cano.
The incident shed a rare bright light on Braden, who has positioned himself in an unassuming role as one of Oakland's most consistent starters over the last couple of years. He likes it that way, though.
"Leave me alone," he said, grinning. "I'm good here. I'd even like to pitch in the fifth spot. That'd be awesome. I'd love to just be the throw-in guy."
However, his teammates would likely say his colorful bulldog self wouldn't exactly fit that role as well.
"He knows what it takes to get guys out," Suzuki said. "He fights out there. He battles. He's not a guy you want to mess with."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.