NEW YORK -- Russell Martin has had a frustrating season, spending much of it under the .200 mark in batting average. But he has been much a valuable September bat. On Friday night, he led off the 10th with a home run, his 18th, to lift the New York Yankees to a 2-1 victory over the Oakland A's in the first game of a three-game series between possible future playoff opponents. Russell's fourth career walk-off, his second this year, rescued the Yankees (87-63) on a rare night in which Rafael Soriano blew a save in the ninth. It was the Yankees' sixth win in a row, as they maintained their lead over the Orioles in the tight AL East. The A's, the best team in MLB since July 1 at 85-65, continue to lead in the race for one of the two wild card spots. Martin, hitting .293 since Sept. 3, turned Sean Doolittle's 93 MPH fastball around, driving it into the leftfield stands. Yankees starter CC Sabathia turned in his best performance in nearly a month, holding the A's scoreless for eight innings, allowing three hits and striking out 11. When he wasn't throwing his fastball, touching 96 MPH, past Oakland hitters, he was buckling their knees with his slider, which again had its old break. The A's didn't have a hit until Stephen Drew singled to left in the sixth inning, and Sabathia's only real jam was in the eighth, when Oakland loaded the bases with two out. Sabathia, with his 113th and final pitch, got Josh Reddick on a fly to left to escape the inning. The Yankees didn't do much better against A's right-hander Jarrod Parker, managing six hits, their only run in Parker's eight innings coming in the fourth, on Curtis Granderson's sacrifice fly. That left a 1-0 game in the hands of Soriano, who has 42 saves and had failed to convert only three previous chances. But Soriano had saved both ends of Wednesday's doubleheader and warmed up Thursday night, and showed signs of fatigue. With one out, Moss came off the bench to hit for Chris Carter in a lefty-righty switch and hit Soriano's 2-2 pitch into the second deck in right field to tie the game, rounding the bases as the 40,759 in attendance howled in disapproval. Soriano walked two, but struck out pinch-hitter Seth Smith to preserve the tie. Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless ninth for Oakland to send the game to extra innings. Sabathia, winless since Aug. 24, dominated Oakland in the early innings. He retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced, striking out eight to hold a 1-0 lead into the sixth. The A's only baserunner through five innings was Jonny Gomes, who walked with one out in the first. Sabathia got stronger and sharper as the middle innings approached, striking out the size in order in the fifth. Meanwhile, Parker, who beat the Yankees 2-1 in Oakland on July 21, was effective again. The Yankees' only hit first time through the lineup was an infield single in the third by Ichiro Suzuki, whose comebacker found its way into Parker's shirt. Before he could unbutton and get to the ball, Suzuki was across the bag. Suzuki stole second, but Parker got a called third strike past Derek Jeter to strand the runner. The Yankees pried loose a run in the bottom of the fourth, when Nick Swisher singled to right, advanced to third on Alex Rodriguez's single to left-center and scored on Granderson's sacrifice fly to left-center. Suzuki, who went 9 for 12 in the recent series against Toronto, hit a pop fly that dropped right on the left-field line in the fifth, his 11th hit in 14 at-bats, but his magic touch finally wore off a bit when he stumbled between first and second and was tagged out. Notes: Jeter was approached to clarify remarks he made to ESPN's Rick Reilly, in which he said he could see himself playing for another team if he wanted to keep playing and the Yankees did not want him. He told reporters Friday he meant it was only a scenario he could see if he had no choice. "I think it's comical that we're talking about it when I've told you guys time and time again that I can't picture myself playing anywhere else." Jeter could opt out of his contract after next season, and his last contract negotiations with the Yankees were famously contentious. ... The Yankees have been talking for several days about activating outfielder Brett Gardner, who is recovering from elbow surgery and could only pinch-run or play defense, but they haven't yet. "We're just not ready to make the move yet," manager Joe Girardi said. ... The A's were hoping to get center fielder Coco Crisp, who has been out with an allergy-triggered conjunctivitis -- or pink eye -- back for Friday night's game. But Crisp needs more time. ... Oakland entered this series with the best record in the majors (48-22) since July 1.
- Rafael Soriano
- Russell Martin