Sheets can't match Hughes in Oakland

Sheets can't match Hughes in Oakland

OAKLAND -- The A's biggest hit on Wednesday night was nothing more than an infield single off the bat of Eric Chavez.

The ball bounced off the left forearm of Yankees starter Phil Hughes before disappearing from the righty's view while simply sitting right in front of him as Chavez rolled over the white bag at first.

That eighth-inning hit eventually resulted in a run, but it couldn't erase Oakland's overall offensive woes. Nor could it erase the 10 strikeouts tallied by the green and gold's batters.

And no, the hit didn't erase an eventual 3-1 defeat to the Yanks.

It did erase history, though.

Chavez's hit marked the first off Hughes -- literally and figuratively -- as Wednesday's A's lineup came six outs away from forever being etched in history as the victim of a no-hitter in a 2-0 game.

Six outs later, though, the A's simply walked away with their third consecutive loss -- one that made Chavez's hit nothing more than that in a quiet Oakland clubhouse.

"When it's a ballgame that's close, that's really what you're thinking about," Chavez said. "You're just thinking about getting on base and trying to make anything happen. You're not going up there thinking you're trying to break up a no-hitter. You're thinking about trying to win the ballgame. If it's 5-0 or 6-0, it's different. But everyone knows that if you're down, 2-0, you're one swing away from being back in it."

Said Hughes, who was making his first career start against Oakland: "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't [thinking about it]. Obviously, I knew I hadn't given up a hit. It was a first-pitch fastball away, and he hit it back up the middle. It hit off my forearm, which was angled in such a way that I thought it went straight up. Obviously it didn't, and I couldn't find it in time. It's not really the way you want to give up a no-hitter, but that's the way it goes."

After striking out Kevin Kouzmanoff for the third time, Hughes exited with one out in the frame, as Joba Chamberlain came on to offer up that run-producing hit the A's had been waiting for all night. It came in the form of a single from pinch-hitter Jake Fox, who brought Chavez home after the A's designated hitter had advanced to second when Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch.

That was one of only three hits Oakland could muster all night, though, as the club left a total of four runners on base in the final two innings, the last of which was pitched by Mariano Rivera.

"Whether or not we got a hit was irrelevant, because the only thing that matters is a win or a loss," A's starter Ben Sheets said. "We were giving ourselves opportunities to tie and win the game in the eighth and the ninth. That's what we should look at. We were right there with an opportunity, and if you get no-hit, it's just a loss. And if you get a no-hitter, it's just a win. Bottom-line results are wins and losses."

Sheets' solid six innings of work were lost in the shuffle of Hughes' gem, but they didn't go unnoticed by his manager.

"It sounds like a broken record, but he keeps getting better and better with every start," A's skipper Bob Geren said. "When you give up two runs against the Yankees, you give your team a solid chance to win, and he did that tonight."

Sheets limited the Yankees to two runs on four hits -- two of which were back-to-back triples in the fourth -- while walking three and fanning four. He echoed Geren's sentiments of his continual improvement, but the bulldog in Sheets knows he has more to offer.

"I thought it was OK," said Sheets, who hasn't given up more than three earned runs in any of his starts this season. "I thought my stuff was a lot better. With that stuff, I'd like to pitch better and throw more strikes to get deeper in the game.

"I felt physically able to go another inning if need be. I could have done it. For me, that tells me I'm getting better, that I'm starting to get right. We lost the game, though. It's tough to cope with."

Eight of Oakland's nine starters struck out at least once in the game, as not much was done to aid Sheets, who wasn't too interested that his opponent retired 20 in a row.

"How Hughes pitches is not relevant to me," Sheets said. "He pitched a great game when you look back on it, but I was worried about trying to throw zeros."

"He was good," Chavez said of Sheets. "He's just been quietly working his way up. For him to go out there and throw the ball against a lineup like that and keep us in the ballgame, it's just real encouraging."

So was an impressive performance from the A's bullpen, which limited New York to one run and four hits in the final three innings. Not so encouraging, though, was left-hander Jerry Blevins' exit in the eighth after he experienced back spasms.

The injury came just three hours following an announcement that Travis Buck was scratched from his start in left field due to what was deemed a strained right oblique. Furthermore, second baseman Mark Ellis was placed on the disabled list before the game with a strained left hamstring.

Still, Geren's glass remained half-full following Wednesday's loss despite the status of his banged-up team.

"We always felt like we were in the game," Geren said. "You've got to love the way they bounced back and fought all the way to the last pitch."

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