"That [triple play] was a big part of the game because they could have had a chance to break it wide open there," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You think that maybe it's going to happen, and we're going to come back and snatch one."
Despite the 5-4-3 triple-killing that A-Rod started on a Suzuki grounder in the sixth inning, home runs off the bats of Marcus Thames and Mark Teixeira, and a complete-game effort from Sabathia, the Yankees never clawed all the way back.
About two hours later, Sabathia was still kicking himself for the two walks he issued among the first three Oakland hitters, drawing pitching coach Dave Eiland to the mound.
Eiland had barely returned to the dugout when Sabathia threw a two-seam fastball that Suzuki clobbered, stroking it over the left-field wall to put the A's up 3-0 with their first lead of the series. Sabathia said that he'd lost his concentration.
"I was all over the place, really," Sabathia said. "I had no command of anything. My changeup was decent, and that was the only thing that really kept me in the game. I just tried to battle. I still was all over the place and getting behind guys, and I just tried to make pitches when I needed to."
Sabathia held the A's to just an unearned run the rest of the way, but Oakland left-hander Dallas Braden held the Yankees to just the home runs hit by Thames and Teixeira in the fifth and sixth innings. Brad Ziegler hurled two scoreless innings and Andrew Bailey came in to lock down the save.
"They did a nice job of keeping us off balance," Girardi said. "Ziegler did a nice job coming in for two innings, and Braden has got good stuff. He doesn't walk people and throws a lot of strikes. He doesn't beat himself."
Braden hurled six innings and scattered six hits, walking one and striking out two, and his outing produced comfortable at-bats -- at least for Teixeira, who went 1-for-4 in his first game as a designated hitter this season.
"Probably the best four at-bats I've had all year," Teixeira said. "For me, it's a very fine line between being really good or really bad. Unfortunately, I've been on the really bad side most of the year. Hopefully this means I'm turning the corner."
Not that Braden made everyone feel pleasant. He exchanged words with A-Rod in the sixth, when Rodriguez crossed back to first base over the mound on a Cano foul ball. Braden barked at Rodriguez, who later cupped his hand over his ear and asked what he was saying.
"He just told me to get off his mound. That was a little surprising. I'd never quite heard that, especially from a guy that has a handful of wins in his career," Rodriguez said.
Braden has 17 career victories, to be exact, including his third on Thursday to tie for the American League lead. And Braden said he had issues with Rodriguez's lack of awareness on what he said is an unwritten rule, suggesting that "maybe watch just his captain a little more often," a reference to Derek Jeter.
"He's a tremendous player, a tremendous talent," Braden said. "I don't care if I'm Cy Young or the 25th man on the roster. If I've got that ball in my hand and I'm out on that mound, that's not your mound. You want to run across that mound? Go run laps in the bullpen."
The home sixth inning, as it was, would be worth the price of admission by itself. With two runners aboard, Suzuki chopped a grounder to A-Rod at third base. He tagged the bag to force out Daric Barton, fired to Robinson Cano at second base to nail Ryan Sweeney. The relay at first base landed in Nick Johnson's glove in time to complete the Yankees' first triple play since June 3, 1968, against the Twins -- a span of 6,632 consecutive regular-season games without turning a triple play.
"It was great to get CC out of a jam like that," Cano said. "He pitched great. Only one inning, you take away those three runs and he pitched outstanding."
Sabathia fell to 2-5 with a 5.95 ERA in 10 career starts at the Coliseum, a place where the Vallejo, Calif., product repeatedly passed through the turnstiles to cheer his hometown A's.
Sabathia said he didn't think the facility -- where he still holds Raiders season tickets -- had anything to do with it.
"Maybe back then, but now it's kind of old," Sabathia said. "I've been in the American League for 10 years. It's just one of those things that was a bad day."
New York's 12-game errorless streak came to an end in the fourth inning, leading to the fourth Oakland run. Cano made a wild throw on a fielder's choice that permitted Jake Fox to reach second base, and the unearned run came around on an Adam Rosales sacrifice fly.
"Robbie's so good at turning double plays, it's uncharacteristic for him to throw a ball away," Girardi said. "We had some weird things happen today."