OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Once Nick Swisher got the signs down, he delivered the big hit that helped the New York Yankees complete a three-game sweep.
Swisher hit a three-run homer after mistakenly thinking he was supposed to bunt to help A.J. Burnett snap an 11-start winless streak on the road as the Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics for the 10th straight time, 4-2 on Wednesday.
The big blow came in the fourth inning when Swisher showed bunt against Gio Gonzalez for the first two pitches with runners on first and second and no outs. After consulting with third-base coach Tony Pena during a mound visit, Swisher swung away at the next pitch and delivered his fourth home run of the season.
“I thought I was told to lay one down,” Swisher said. “So finally after it got to 2-0 and the pitching coach came out I went over to (Pena) and said, ‘Hey man, what do you want me to do right here?’ He said, ‘I want you to let it loose.’ So I did.”
He hit the next pitch over the left-field fence to give New York the lead for good. Derek Jeter added his 2,984th hit and Alex Rodriguez also drove in a run for the Yankees, who have their longest winning streak against the A’s since winning 14 in a row from 1956-57.
“Any time you win 10 in a row against a club, it just doesn’t happen very often,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “They have talent over there. They have a very good pitching staff. We just kind of had our way. We were fortunate.”
Josh Willingham hit a two-run home run and Gio Gonzalez (5-3) took his first loss since April for Oakland, which was swept by the Yankees in a three-game series and has lost 23 of the last 26 meetings against New York.
Burnett (6-3) had not won a game away from Yankee Stadium since last July in Cleveland, going 0-5 with a 5.64 ERA in his previous 11 road starts. He looked to be on his way to another rough day when Willingham homered in the first inning, but didn’t allow anything else.
Burnett gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings for the fourth straight strong start from New York’s rotation, giving the Yankees a season-long four-game win streak. Burnett allowed only one hit after the first inning — a two-out triple by Coco Crisp in the fifth — as he went to more two-seam fastballs instead of four-seamers.
“The four-seamer was up early,” he said. “I think in times in the past, I would stick with it and maybe get beat up. I realized the two-seamer kept me down in the zone today and Ii used that more.”
Joba Chamberlain pitched a scoreless eighth, snaring a line drive to start an inning-ending double play. Mariano Rivera finished for his 14th save in 17 chances and first since May 10. It was Rivera’s 1,002nd career appearance, tying Goose Gossage for 14th place all-time.
The A’s came into the series on a four-game winning streak with their top three starters lined up to face the powerful Yankees. But New York battered Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Gonzalez for 18 runs in the three-game sweep.
Gonzalez allowed four runs five hits and four walks in 6 1-3 innings in this game as the three starters fell to 1-10 with a 7.24 ERA in their careers against the Yankees.
“As a team you have to attack early and keep the pressure on them,” Gonzalez said. “You let them know right off the bat, you are going to give them everything you got. You can’t cruise when you think you have them down. They always seem quick to be able to get a little rally going. When it’s going their way, it’s going their way.”
For the third straight day, the A’s fell behind before even coming to bat. After allowing two-run homers in the first inning the past two days, Oakland managed to keep the deficit at one this time: Jeter led off with a double — the third straight game he has opened with a hit — and scored on Rodriguez’s two-out double.
That was the first hit allowed by Gonzalez in 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Oakland responded in the bottom half with a two-run homer of its own. Willingham’s 10th of the season came with two outs and David DeJesus on second, giving the A’s a 2-1 lead.
That ended a stretch of 60 straight innings that Oakland did not hold a lead at the end of a frame against the Yankees.
The lead lasted only until the fourth inning, when Swisher connected for a three-run shot off Gonzalez, one of the players the A’s acquired when they dealt Swisher to the Chicago White Sox three years ago.
“I just found out this morning that we were in the same trade,” Swisher said. “No one likes getting traded. You don’t really pay attention to who’s on the other side of it.”
Notes: Yankees RHP Phil Hughes (shoulder inflammation) threw about 50 pitches in a bullpen session the game and is scheduled to face hitters Saturday in Anaheim. … Oakland reliever Joey Devine has not allowed an earned run in 33 consecutive innings dating to May 23, 2008.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)