OAKLAND -- Normalcy was at a premium Thursday night at Oakland Coliseum. The Yankees lost to the A's here for the first time in two years, 4-3, and New York was nearly held to fewer than three runs for the first time since May. This in front of hundreds of barking dogs.
The Yankees couldn't solve A's rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin, who was making just his fifth career start in the first game of four in the series. New York (57-35) and Oakland (48-44) both came in with wins in five of their past six games.
Griffin, 24, held the Yanks scoreless through five innings, and escaped a four-hit Yankees rally in the sixth inning with just two runs scored. Before Thursday, the Yanks had done quite well against pitchers they had never seen before: 26-11 dating to the start of last season. Of course, they had also won nine straight games in this ballpark stretching back to 2010, and 21 of 30 series openers this season.
Freddy Garcia gave up nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, and considering how poor he felt his stuff was, he did well to hold the A's to just four.
"They're playing better," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Oakland. "They've won 10 out of their last 12, they had a big win yesterday, they're swinging the bats better, their starting pitching has been good and their bullpen has been good. This is a team over .500, so they're playing pretty good."
The Yanks did manage to hold on to their streak of scoring at least three runs in a game, bringing it to 43 games with a solo homer from Nick Swisher in the ninth off A's closer Ryan Cook. Swisher was the only Yanks hitter to reach in the final three innings against Oakland's bullpen.
With the news before the game that Brett Gardner is likely lost for the season, Swisher is one of many who will be asked to step up. He drove in two of the Yankees' runs Thursday and is hitting .321 in his last 10 games.
"For us, we've just got to pull it all together," said Swisher, who went 2-for-4. "Keep doing what we're doing, keep fighting and just throw our thoughts and prayers out there that it'll be OK."
The Yankees had a chance in the first inning, with singles from leadoff man Derek Jeter and No. 3 hitter Alex Rodriguez. After escaping the jam unscathed, Griffin retired 11 in a row from the second through the fifth.
Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, whom like Griffin the Yankees had never seen, cracked a two-run homer to left in the first inning. Seth Smith plated two more on a third-inning single off Garcia.
Garcia said the pitch to Cespedes, a curveball down, was where he wanted it. He struck out six and walked two.
"I couldn't find my stuff today," Garcia said. "I was in trouble the whole game, but I was able to keep the game close."
The Yankees broke through in the sixth with four singles and two runs. One of the knocks came from Robinson Cano, extending his career-long hit streak to 22 games. Mark Teixeira plated one run on a deep sac fly to center, and Swisher drove in another with a single.
Griffin had some anxiousness about facing the Bombers, but that had subsided by the sixth.
"First inning, I had some nerves a little bit, but I just had to overcome those," Griffin said. "I felt like I was trying to do too much maybe. Around the third inning I just told myself don't try to throw hard, just spot it up and stay within yourself, do what you do that makes you good. I felt like I turned a page right there for sure."