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Slow start offsets A's homers

Slow start offsets A's homers

OAKLAND -- Gio Gonzalez needed just five pitches and three minutes to retire the first two Yankees batters on Tuesday.

What followed, though, was a series of events that foreshadowed something of a snail-paced rhythm.

Gonzalez gave up a double to Mark Teixeira before walking two to load the bases. A seemingly sure groundout to first baseman Daric Barton followed, but the ball took a bad hop and a run scored. Two more runs came in on a single from former A's outfielder Nick Swisher.

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By the time Gonzalez walked off the mound after the first inning, he had thrown 36 pitches and given up three runs.

Approximately three hours later, just before the 11 o'clock hour hit, Gonzalez was long gone and a combined 364 pitches had been thrown by both teams, 15 of which resulted in walks and 21 of which forced strikeouts.

The result -- an oddly dragged-out contest that left the A's on the losing end of a 7-3 decision against the visiting Yankees, who patiently tested four Oakland pitchers en route to tallying 10 of the walks -- five of which resulted in runs.

"Walks told the whole story today," manager Bob Geren stated.

Not much else could be said in a loss that had the A's not only out-hitting but out-homering a loaded Yankees lineup -- one that has won 13 of its past 16 games against the A's.

Gonzalez couldn't make it out of the fifth inning for the second successive outing, as he surrendered five runs on three hits and five walks while fanning five through 4 1/3 innings.

"I was missing by a couple inches," Gonzalez said. "I was trying to make minor adjustments, but I just couldn't put it all together. You have to attack them. You have to throw strikes, and I wasn't doing that."

The obstacle that was the first inning disappeared until New York powered its way onto the scoreboard in the fifth. Gonzalez (1-1) walked two to start the frame before being relieved by lefty Craig Breslow, who quickly surrendered a three-run home run to Alex Rodriguez to make it a 6-0 game.

After the game, Geren defended his decision to use Breslow, against whom the right-handed-hitting Rodriguez is now 2-for-5 with two homers.

"You don't match up lefties and righties in the fifth inning," the A's skipper said. "You're going to run out of pitchers that way. You can't bring a guy in to face one batter that early in the game."

Breslow's offering came just minutes before Travis Buck got the A's on the board in the bottom half of the inning with his own home run -- a solo shot off Yankees starter Javier Vazquez, who improved to 1-2.

Oakland then added two in the sixth on another homer -- a two-run blast off the bat of Kurt Suzuki -- that led to Vazquez's exit. But the damage stopped there, as the A's managed just two hits off New York's bullpen, which combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings.

Meanwhile, former Yankees righty Edwar Ramirez surrendered New York's final run in the seventh on an infield grounder that scored Nick Johnson, who represented the first of three straight walks in the inning.

"They're obviously good hitters," said Geren, "but they're obviously patient hitters as well. If you don't throw strikes, they'll make you pay for it."

Yet in the midst of New York's dominant presence on the bases, the A's had their chances -- the first of which came in the second inning.

Suzuki walked to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a double by Eric Chavez, who tallied two hits as the designated hitter. Suzuki then dashed for home as Mark Ellis directed a ball to Rodriguez at third base, putting the A's catcher in a rundown until he was tagged out by catcher Jorge Posada, clearing a potential run-scoring threat.

"They had their infield playing pretty far back," Geren said, "so in that situation, I think he did what he thought was right."

By night's end, the A's had left seven runners on base -- four of whom were stranded by Kevin Kouzmanoff, who struck out three times and ended a bases-loaded threat in the seventh by recording his final K of the night.

A handful of missed opportunities opened the door a little too wide for the defending World Series champs, who are now riding a season-high five-game winning streak following Tuesday's walkathon.

"They're known as high-walk hitters," Geren said. "We knew that going into the game. That's part of the reason their offense is so good.

"You can't win games by walking 10 guys."

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

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