NEW YORK -- Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin knows the history closer Grant Balfour has had against Vernon Wells. Since the alternative was pitching to Robinson Cano with two outs and a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth inning, it was a move that he felt had to be made.
Balfour ensured the decision was the correct one by striking out Wells for the final out of Oakland's 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon.
"I don't know my history with Wells," Balfour said. "He's a nice guy. As far as my history goes, he's always nice to me."
Wells' bat has not been so nice to Balfour. Wells came into the at-bat 6-for-12 against Balfour with two home runs and four RBI.
"I was fired up," Balfour said. "I wanted to face him. It's a 1-1 count. I felt good about it but that's Bob decision and I guess got lucky today facing Wells today with the history. The history's turning with some success with him."
"Trust me, I know it's 6-for-12 and two homers sitting right behind him," Melvin said. "But in this ballpark with the way that Cano is swinging, it was a better option for me. I am very aware of the numbers, trust me."
Wells got to face Balfour after Brett Gardner singled up the middle on a broken bat. Gardner then advanced to second on a 1-1 pitch to Cano. After being instructed to intentionally walk Cano, Balfour was initially angry at having to do so but regrouped and started the at-bat to Wells with two sliders.
After Wells got ahead on the fastball and fouled it off two more times, Balfour elevated the pitch and the Yankee left fielder swung through it.
"At first I was trying to strike him out," Balfour said. "Then I was trying to get him to hit a ground ball and when I got later into the count, I was looking to punch him out."
"He won that battle," Wells said. "I'm sure they'll be plenty more. You give the guy on the mound credit this time and hopefully next time won't have the same outcome."
Oakland was in position for that encounter after Josh Donaldson hit a one-out solo home run in the top of the eighth off Boone Logan (2-2).
Donaldson hit one of three home runs for Oakland, which won for the fifth time in seven games. Luke Montz and Yoenis Cespedes connected off Andy Pettitte as the Athletics took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
Oakland was unable to keep that lead but Donaldson restored it by turning on a 2-1 fastball from Logan (2-2) and sending it well over the left field fence. It was his third home run of the season and 12th hit in 35 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season.
Sean Doolittle (2-0) earned the win after Donaldson connected. Doolittle got five outs to preserve A.J. Griffin's victory in the series opener and pitched a scoreless seventh on Sunday.
In the eighth inning, Ryan Cook gave up consecutive one-out singles to Travis Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki but fanned Jayson Nix and retired Lyle Overbay on a fly ball to the warning track in right-center field.
Dan Straily made his second start in place of Brett Anderson and was charged with three runs while allowing four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He left the game with two on in the sixth and Jerry Blevins gave up an RBI double to Suzuki and a run-scoring single to Lyle Overbay.
Before Oakland squandered the lead, it wore out Pettitte by knocking him out after five innings. Montz led off the fourth with a solo shot and Cespedes hit a two-run home run with one out in the fifth.
"The first at-bat, he threw me a couple of pitches that were outside," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "In the third at-bat the only pitch I saw was a cutter in and I was ready for that."
Pettitte turned in his second straight shaky start as he struggled to find movement with his signature cut fastball. He allowed four runs (three earned) and four hits while issuing four walks for the first time since July 8, 2010.
"The issue is everything again," Pettitte said. "Just everything that you want to try to do as a starting pitcher, I'm not able to do right now. I had no command of my fastball. It was just a battle again."
NOTES: New York CF Curtis Granderson appears to be the closest of any of New York's injured players to returning. He is spending time rehabbing from a broken forearm suffered Feb. 24 and is taking fly balls in all three positions. Granderson is currently playing in extended spring training games and actually got hit by a pitch on Saturday. However, manager Joe Girardi said it was in the triceps. Granderson will be joined by other big names at the minor league complex when Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira start that segment of their rehabs. ... RHP David Robertson tested his hamstring by playing catch before the game. ... Athletics OF Chris Young (quad) flew back to Oakland to rehab with LHP Brett Anderson (ankle) and Coco Crisp (hamstring). Crisp walked without any soreness for the first time Saturday while Anderson is playing catch. ... OF Michael Taylor made his second start of the season after being promoted Saturday to replace Young. ... INF Hiro Nakajima played in a rehab game Friday for Class AAA Sacramento but did not play after experiencing some tightness in his hamstring. Nakajima has been on the DL since March 27 with a strained left hamstring. ... New York SS Eduardo Nunez left the game after the fourth inning with tightness in his ribcage and was headed for an MRI. ... Oakland C Derek Norris appeared to hurt his hand on the wild pitch by Balfour but after consulting with the trainer, he stayed in.