Beltran homers to atone for weak base running

On a night when the Yankees seemed to be doing so many things to avoid scoring, a home run and shutdown pitching made up for all the bizarre offensive mistakes Thursday night in a 4-1 victory at Oakland against a team that had swept the Yankees at home last month.

Carlos Beltran was at the center of the Yankees’ schizophrenia. He drove in a run in the third inning with a double, then failed to score when right fielder Josh Reddick dropped Brian McCann’s fly ball with two outs by not running because he lost count of the outs.

That missed run looked huge when the Athletics tied the score in the fourth on a home run by Reddick off Ivan Nova, the only blemish on the righthander’s third straight impressive start that bodes well for his chances to stay in the rotation even with CC Sabathia coming off the the 15-day disabled list to start Friday night.

The Yankees regained the lead in the sixth on a two-out, RBI double by Aaron Hicks. This was the weirdest inning of the night for the Yanks. They had four hits in the inning against Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (1-6) but scored just the one run.

Chase Headley, who has really pick things up offensively of late, led off with a single but was picked off first base, although Headley and Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought Graveman balked. Dustin Ackley singled and crossed to third on a single to right field by Didi Gregorius, who did not run hard out of the box and then tried to stretch his hit on Reddick’s throw to third base and was out at second. Hicks’ two-bagger at least gave the Yankees something from the inning.

Beltran atoned for his base running gaffe by bashing a two-run home run in the top of the ninth off reliever Fernando Rodriguez. Turning a one-run lead into a three-lead with Aroldis Chapman coming in for the bottom of the ninth was very positive penance for Beltran. He got a chance to play hero thanks to Brett Gardner, who walked with two outs right before him. It was a big night for Gardner, who reached base four times (two singles, two walks), stole a base, scored two runs and robbed Yonder Alonso of a potential RBI extra-base hit with a running, leaping catch on the left field warning track in the second inning.

Nova limited the A’s to four hits and no walks with three strikeouts over the first six innings and got 12 outs on ground balls, a sign that his sinker was effective. Also efficient. Nova threw only 62 pitches. He is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 innings as a starter this year.

It may have been surprising to see Nova remain in the dugout as the seventh inning rolled around, but just as he did Wednesday night with Nathan Eovaldi pitching a one-hitter through six Girard could not resist the temptation to nail things down by bringing in Dellin Betances to pitch the seventh, Andrew Miller the eighth and Chapman the ninth. Opponents should take note — you are looking at a six-inning game if you fall behind the Yankees by the middle innings.

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