Proctor, Yanks suffer tough loss vs. A's

Proctor, Yanks suffer tough loss against A's

OAKLAND -- It would have been easy for Scott Proctor to throw out an excuse for giving up the game-winner on Tuesday night against the A's. That just isn't his style.

The right-hander, who allowed the decisive run in the bottom of the ninth of Oakland's 4-3 win over New York, has had a roller coaster week that would test the mental toughness of any human being.

First, there was the news that he had made the Opening Day roster, followed almost immediately by the gut-wrenching word that his three-week-old daughter was being rushed in for heart surgery.

Three days after the procedure, Proctor flew out to Oakland to join his team, arriving in the middle of the Yankees' Opening Day blowout win at McAfee Coliseum.

Then came Tuesday, when Joe Torre called on Proctor to pitch the ninth inning in a tie ballgame, only to have a leadoff walk come back to haunt him just three batters later.

Nobody would have blamed Proctor had he tried to make an excuse, as there would have been plenty to choose from. He hadn't thrown in a game in a week, he had been through a hellacious few days at the hospital and he'd just arrived on the West Coast on Monday night.

"It had nothing to do with it," Proctor said. "If you execute, you'll get guys out. I felt fine to go today. There's no excuse for not getting it done."

"It's been an upside down time for him over the last week or so," said Torre. "He's not going to back away from a challenge, he just wasn't as sharp as he could have been."

Although the loss will go on Proctor's record, several Yankees could have taken their share of blame for the defeat.

Alex Rodriguez stranded runners in scoring position on three separate occasions, while he also ran the Yankees out of an inning with a baserunning blunder.

New York left eight men in scoring position in the game, wasting several prime opportunities against Rich Harden and Oakland's bullpen.

One of those chances came in the first, as Johnny Damon walked and Derek Jeter doubled, putting them both in scoring position to open the ballgame.

Instead of getting rattled and letting the Yankees bully him around the way they did with Barry Zito on Monday, Harden got stubborn, striking out Gary Sheffield, A-Rod and Jason Giambi to keep New York off the scoreboard.

"That was the difference between yesterday and today; yesterday, we delivered a blow, but today, we couldn't," Rodriguez said, referring to New York's 15-run outburst on Monday. "Rich Harden has real good stuff. He's one of the finest pitchers in the American League. He showed it in that inning, blowing all three of us away."

Mike Mussina did his part for New York, allowing three runs over seven innings. Two of them came on solo home runs by Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez, but Mussina left the game with the score tied at 3.

"I made a couple of bad pitches and they took advantage of them," Mussina said. "That stuff's going to happen. I felt pretty good throwing the ball, I just wish I could have kept them in the park."

Mike Myers and Kyle Farnsworth each made their Yankees debuts in the eighth, combining to send the tie game into the ninth.

After the Yankees were unable to snap the tie despite a one-out Damon double, Torre turned to Proctor, not wanting to send Farnsworth out for a second inning and needing to hold Jaret Wright back in case the game was rained out while still tied, forcing a doubleheader on Wednesday.

Proctor's daughter, Emmy (short for Mary Elizabeth), was born on March 8 with a heart murmur, but doctors didn't seem too concerned about the condition. When Proctor's wife, Carrie, took her for a checkup last week, doctors found that Emmy had an interrupted aortic arch, which is a rare heart defect that occurs when the aorta doesn't develop fully in the womb.

Surgery was performed Friday at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, and while she is expected to make a full recovery, she will remain in the hospital for a few weeks. Even with his family 3,000 miles away, Proctor insisted he was ready to take the ball.

"It's a job, just like any other," he said. "That's what we're paid to do, so you just have to block it out and focus on what you're doing. There's going to be adversity in anything. I had no problem focusing tonight."

If focus wasn't a problem for Proctor, command was. He issued a four-pitch walk to Milton Bradley to start the inning, putting the potential winning run on base.

"A four-pitch walk is unacceptable," said Proctor, who allowed just two runs over 17 innings this spring. "Any time you put yourself in a hole, when that leadoff guy gets on with a walk, a majority of the time he's going to score.

"If I get that first guy out, it's a whole different ballgame. You can't put yourself in a hole like that."

Jason Kendall bunted Bradley to second, then the Yanks intentionally walked Swisher. That brought Marco Scutaro to the plate, and he ripped a 1-1 pitch to left field, just out of Hideki Matsui's reach. Bradley cruised home, giving the A's their first win of the season.

"Scotty has thrown the ball great for us all spring," Rodriguez said. "With the situation he's going through right now, this is a pretty trivial game in the big scope of things. Scotty's going to be fine."

"I think it was more that he hadn't pitched than it was the mental aspect of it," Torre said. "The kid has gone through a lot. He walked the first man and that was his undoing. He's certainly had a tough week."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.