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Yankees Lose, Maintain First Place Lead

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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Oakland Athletics scores a sixth inning run ahead of the tag from Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 23: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Oakland Athletics scores a sixth inning run ahead of the tag from Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Derek Jeter says he’s not injured. Still,
manager Joe Giardi is being cautious with one of his most
consistent stars.

Limiting the Yankees captain to the role of designated hitter
because of a sore ankle has forced the mistake-prone Eduardo Nunez
into playing shortstop.

It hurt New York on Sunday.

Nunez’s throwing error in the sixth inning set up Cliff
Pennington’s go-ahead RBI, and the Yankees had their seven-game
winning streak come to an end with a 5-4 loss to the Oakland
Athletics.

“I think it’s more that you worry about the more he’s on it,
the better chance he has of, I don’t know what you want to call it,
re-injuring it or irritating it more than it already is,” Girardi
said of Jeter.

Jeter has played shortstop in only three of the last nine games
after bruising his ankle trying to beat out a throw against Boston.

“I don’t have a physical issue,” Jeter said. “I’m fine to
play.”

The Yankees kept their one-game lead in the AL East because
Baltimore lost in Boston. Despite the defeat, the Yankees have to
like their chances to win the division _ their final 10 games are
against three teams with records below .500.

“We control what happens,” Jeter said. “We play how we’re
capable of, we win our games. We really don’t have to look at the
scoreboard.”

A day after their stunning 14-inning loss _ capped by a misplay
on Nunez’s grounder _ the A’s maintained their 21/2-game lead for the
second AL wild-card spot over the Angels.

Alex Rodriguez nearly tied it again for the Yankees, hitting a
drive off closer Grant Balfour in the ninth that Josh Reddick
caught with his back against the wall in right field.

“I thought it had a chance,” Girardi said.

Balfour did, too, after Oakland twice lost in extra innings in
the Bronx.

“The way things went for us in this series, you never know,”
Balfour said.

The A’s lost a 10-9 heartbreaker Saturday when Brandon Moss
misplayed Nunez’s spinning grounder for an error with two outs in
the 14th. This time they took advantage of Nunez’s two-base
throwing error on a tough play with one out in the sixth.

An out after Josh Donaldson reached second base, Pennington, the
No. 9 batter, singled to left field for his third hit and a 5-4
lead. Pennington earlier hit a two-run homer.

“To lose two games in extra innings is tough, especially when
these games mean so much,” Pennington said. “It was really still
just another game, but it was a big one.”

Nunez, demoted in May because of his struggles in the field,
also made an error in the seventh when he failed to get the ball
cleanly out of his glove on Yoenis Cespedes’ grounder.

“I have to keep practicing defense. I have to keep working,”
Nunez said. “Tomorrow’s a different day.”

Cespedes had a tying single in the fifth after a wild pitch from
Hiroki Kuroda (14-11). The A’s scored a run in the first on another
wild pitch by the Yankees starter.

Jerry Blevins (5-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings in relief of A.J.
Griffin.

In a seesaw series, the A’s opened a 3-0 lead but the Yankees
rallied for four runs in the fourth before Cespedes tied it.

“Rarely do you lose a game like you did last night, and I think
coming back from something like that and scoring early in the game
showed some fight right away,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It
was a big game.”

Oakland scored four runs in the 13th inning of Saturday’s
5-hour, 43-minute game, but the Yankees came back. The A’s bullpen
locked this one down, though, with 4 2-3 innings of shutout ball.
Ryan Cook worked 1 1-3 innings, Sean Doolittle went an inning and
Balfour finished for his 20th save.

Donaldson led off the second by beating out a grounder to
shortstop. But replays clearly showed Donaldson’s foot a few feet
from coming down on first base when Nick Swisher caught Nunez’s low
throw. Two batters later, Pennington homered to right field for a
3-0 lead.

The young A’s _ 14 rookies on the roster _ kept right on
celebrating in their dugout, a day after former teammate and
current Yankee Eric Chavez told a New York columnist that Oakland’s
rhythmic clapping during its three-homer spurt in the 13th inning
was “high schoolish.”

But in this tight series the Yankees rallied again, and Raul
Ibanez was right in the mix in the fourth inning.

Trailing 3-0 and with only one hit off Griffin through three
innings, the Yankees came back in the fourth when Cano singled and
Swisher homered into the second deck in right field. After two more
hits, Ibanez followed up his two-homer performance Saturday with an
RBI double that left a mark on the right field line to tie it.

With the infield playing halfway, Nunez drove in a fourth run
with a grounder to second base.

NOTES: The Yankees had their rookies dress up as “Star Wars”
characters for their flight to Minnesota. Melky Mesa was Darth
Vader and David Phelps was Princess Leia. … Jeter had two hits as
the designated hitter to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. …
Yankees RHP Joba Chamberlain turned 27 Sunday. … Reddick went 0
for 4 and is hitless in 24 at-bats.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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