OAKLAND, Calif. -- What started as a pitching duel between Oakland A's right-hander Jarrod Parker and New York Yankees righty Hiroki Kuroda turned into a marathon battle of shutdown bullpens Thursday afternoon at the O.co Coliseum.
The question was, which 'pen would blink first?
The answer finally came in the bottom of the 18th inning when A's rookie Nate Freiman hit a walk-off single to left with the bases loaded off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, giving Oakland a 3-2 victory.
Rivera took over with one out in the bottom of the 18th after John Jaso singled off Preston Claiborne (0-1). Seth Smith blooped a broken-bat single to left, moving Jaso to third. Rivera intentionally walked Jed Lowrie, loading the bases and bringing Freiman to the plate.
Freiman hit Rivera's second pitch to left field, shattering his bat but giving the A's their 11th consecutive home win, the longest streak in the majors this season. Oakland, which swept the three-game series, improved to 5-1 against the Yankees this season and beat them at the Coliseum for the seventh straight time, dating to last season. The A's are 10-3 in their past 13 games against the Yankees.
The walk-off hit was the first of Freiman's career, and it came against baseball's all-time saves leader.
"There are a couple people that, regardless of what team you root for, you can't really root against," Freiman said. "Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera -- I've been a Red Sox fan my whole life, and I always root for them. The way (Rivera's) carried himself throughout his career, the professionalism and class, that's a guy I've always admired. It was a big thrill."
Rivera rarely pitches unless it's a save situation, but manager Joe Girardi made an exception in the 18-inning game after using five other relievers.
"I know what I had to do," Rivera said. "I was ready. I didn't have to throw hard. That's not an excuse. They put the ball in play, and it fell in the right place. ... We definitely didn't want it to end like that."
Rivera broke Freiman's bat with a 92 mph cutter, but the rookie got enough shattered wood on the ball to send it into shallow left field. Freiman had the shattered bat and the ball he hit for the game-winner in his locker.
"It sawed me off pretty good," Freiman said. "It was probably around the label. I've used that bat for quite a while. If it's going to break, that's a pretty good way for it to go."
Parker and Kuroda each allowed two runs over eight innings, but neither one figured in the decision.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and the A's pulled even with two runs in the third. A Derek Norris groundout scored Oakland's first run, and Smith doubled home Jaso with the tying run. Neither team scored again until the 18th.
The Yankees used six relievers: David Robertson, Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, Claiborne and Rivera.
Warren took over in the 11th and threw six shutout innings.
The A's also used six relievers: Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Pat Neshek, Hideki Okajima and Jesse Chavez, who pitched the final 5 2/3 innings to earn the win. Chavez (1-0) blanked the Yankees on one hit and struck out seven, tying his career high.
Chavez, who has experience as a starter in the minor leagues, said he had a starter's mentality when he came in the game as the last reliever available other than Sean Doolittle, who needed a day off.
"That's what I told myself today," Chavez said. "We're in it for the long haul, and just come in and put up zeros and we'll be able to put a run across. And fortunately we did."
Chavez, who has been slowed by a strained pectoral muscle, made his first appearance since June 5 at Milwaukee. He came on in the 12th with two runners on and one out, and he struck out Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells.
"They were awesome," Parker said of the bullpen. "Those guys, kind of the same thing I always say every time, they're the unsung heroes. They did a great job today. They've been doing it all year."
The A's nearly ended the game in the 15th. Brandon Moss lined a one-out single to right and went to second on a wild pitch, barely beating catcher Chris Stewart's throw. After Warren walked Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp came on as a pinch hitter, despite battling a bruised right heel that kept him out of the starting lineup for the second straight game.
Crisp singled to left, but Wells gunned down Moss at the plate, throwing a strike to Stewart, who was run over but held onto the ball. Warren then fanned Adam Rosales, ending the inning.
The Yankees had plenty of opportunities to win, but they left 14 runners on base.
"To go this far and end up losing, it sucks, but maybe we can use this and score a few runs in the first inning next time out," Stewart said. "We had plenty of opportunities, and we couldn't cash in. We were just unlucky. They had two scattered bats fall in, and we're not getting those."
This wasn't Oakland's first marathon of the season. On April 29, the A's beat the Los Angeles Angels 10-8 in a 19-inning game that ended when Moss hit a two-run, walk-off homer. That game took a franchise-record six hours and 32 minutes. This one lasted 5:35.
"It was very taxing even winning the game," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "To lose could have been demoralizing. ... After the 15th or 16th, you're delusional. We had guys playing out of position at the end of the game. Derek Norris caught the whole game, and he was still running as hard as he could to first base and blocking two-strike balls in the dirt. All I had to do was sit there."
NOTES: In a pregame ceremony, the A's honored Rivera, who is retiring after this season. The A's presented him with a $10,042 check for his foundation (the "42" representing his uniform number), as well as an assortment of retirement gifts, including some Napa Valley wine and a surfboard. "I think when the other teams do it, they're honoring him because of what he's meant to the game, not just the New York Yankees, and I think people are appreciative of the way he's handled the game, the way he's been somewhat of a spokesperson for the game, a model citizen for the game," Girardi said. "A humble player that's the greatest of all time at his position. I think it's nice that other clubs honor him." ... Crisp and LF Yoenis Cespedes (strained left hamstring) were out of the Oakland starting lineup for the second straight day. ... A's 3B Josh Donaldson left the game with leg cramps after the 15th inning. He is day-to-day.