OAKLAND -- The team with the largest division lead in the Majors probably doesn't need to be up in arms about a three-game losing streak. Not when it hasn't lost four in a row yet this season and not when the last time it had lost three in a row was a month earlier.
The Yankees' third straight loss to the A's came 2-1 Saturday night, decided by a tie-breaking home run from Brandon Inge in the eighth inning at the Oakland Coliseum. Phil Hughes was impressive in 7 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and striking out six, but two of those hits were solo bombs. Even with the Yanks' mighty lineup, a strong starting pitching performance doesn't guarantee a win.
"Here we have the luxury," Hughes said, "When you do pitch like that, we normally win."
The Yankees' bats have been tamed by a young A's pitching staff that's helped Oakland to eight wins in its last nine and into a two-way tie for a Wild Card spot. Shadows might've contributed to the low output for both sides Saturday, with an hour earlier start time than the previous two games. Curtis Granderson drew the Yankees' only walk thus far in the series in the sixth.
"This team has always thrown strikes," said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. "It's probably something that they teach in the Minors, because I've been playing this team for 10 years. When their young guys come up, they're always throwing strikes. You don't see a lot of 3-1 counts, you don't see guys putting on many guys via walks. And that's why almost every year they have a top pitching staff."
The A's first three starting pitchers this series have been rookies. Hughes kept pace for seven innings with 23-year-old Jarrod Parker, who gave up one run in a career-high-tying eight innings. The Yanks' only run came off Parker in the fourth inning on a Raul Ibanez two-out single up the middle. That also qualified as New York's only lead of the series, and the 1-0 advantage didn't last even an inning.
A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes hit another rocket home run with some styling -- the distance and the flair are quickly becoming trademarks -- to tie the game at 1 with two outs in the fourth. Hughes left a 92-mph fastball belt-high and on the inner half with a 2-1 count, and Cespedes crushed it on a line to left for his second homer of the series.
"He's strong," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He hits the ball hard, squares it up on a consistent basis. We're running into a hot hitter right now."
From then until the Inge homer, only two A's reached base: one of them Cespedes, and both by walk. That success made it easier for Girardi to keep David Robertson, who was warming up, in the bullpen at the start of the eighth inning.
The Inge homer came to center on a 91-mph fastball over the middle, knee-high.
"Everybody says you get the ball down, but I kind of like the ball to ride up on him a little more," Hughes said. "That one was down. He likes the ball down, and in the past I've gotten him out a lot kind of in the belly-button region. I don't want to say it was too far down, but it kind of was."
Said Inge: "It was kind of tough to see in the first two at-bats. Both at-bats he threw me a fastball, good pitch to hit, but I swung through both of them. Whether I was late, I don't know why, but I just really told myself on the last at-bat, sit on the fastball and make sure I get on top of it, because I was swinging and missing underneath of it a lot, so on that last one I was just trying to make an adjustment. Just tried to get a good pitch and swing and swing hard."
Alex Rodriguez singled to start the ninth against left-hander Sean Doolittle, who was pitching because A's closer Ryan Cook had thrown three straight days. Doolittle struck out Robinson Cano for the first out, ending Cano's hitting streak at 23 games. Doolittle then fanned Teixeira and pinch-hitter Andruw Jones for his first career save.
That sealed it for Parker, whose performance followed Tommy Milone's from Friday and A.J. Griffin's on Thursday. The last time the Yankees lost three straight was June 19-22, against the Braves and Mets.
"My first and second at-bat, yeah, the shadows were [a factor]. But there's no excuses," said Cano, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. "I just go out there and try to get a hit every at-bat. I don't put it in my mind that I've got a hitting streak or something like that."