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A's bats provide little support for bullpen game

Parade of relievers take shutout into 7th before Yankees rally
MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- Second time's a charm for these A's, or so it seemed.

It was natural to question just why they would go through with the same plan that played out so disastrously three days prior. The A's did it anyway on Tuesday, using a reliever as an "opener" to start a bullpen game at the Coliseum. They looked like geniuses for doing so, holding the Yankees scoreless over six innings before turning the game over to their plus arms.

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OAKLAND -- Second time's a charm for these A's, or so it seemed.

It was natural to question just why they would go through with the same plan that played out so disastrously three days prior. The A's did it anyway on Tuesday, using a reliever as an "opener" to start a bullpen game at the Coliseum. They looked like geniuses for doing so, holding the Yankees scoreless over six innings before turning the game over to their plus arms.

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Yet, in a rare sequence, Jeurys Familia walked in the game-tying run in the seventh, and Fernando Rodney offered up a go-ahead homer to Luke Voit to open the eighth. Things unraveling from there, and the A's unable to answer back in a 5-1 loss that evened this three-game series.

Video: Must C Clutch: Voit stays hot with key HR for Yankees

"It's more [because] we just didn't do enough offensively tonight," A's manager Bob Melvin said of his parade of relievers relenting late. "I mean, no matter what we give up, if it's two runs, when you get two hits, it's going to be a tough time winning."

Two hits were all the A's mustered against Yankees lefty J.A. Happ, their lone run coming on Stephen Piscotty's career-high-tying 22nd homer of the season in the second. Three Yankees relievers kept them hitless over the final three innings.

As a result, Oakland trails New York by 4 1/2 games for the top American League Wild Card spot. The A's also took a hit in the AL West standings, falling 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Astros, winners against the Twins.

"Nothing to it, really, besides just a really good pitcher that pitched really well tonight," A's third baseman Matt Chapman said of Happ. "Kept us off balance."

"Opener" Liam Hendriks gave the A's a clean first inning, and Daniel Mengden -- knocked around for four runs in two innings in a similar assignment on Saturday -- did his part with 4 2/3 scoreless innings and one hit allowed, a two-out single by Gleyber Torres in the sixth for New York's first hit. Lefty Ryan Buchter relieved Mengden and promptly picked off Torres at first as the A's headed to the seventh having faced the minimum.

It was a harmless infield hit from Brett Gardner leading off the seventh against Buchter that opened the gates. Familia took over and surrendered a single to Giancarlo Stanton before walking the next two batters to force in the tying run. He kept the damage to a minimum, however, by striking out the next two. Melvin then turned to Rodney, who got Neil Walker on a foul popout to end the inning.

Video: NYY@OAK: Rodney escapes a jam to preserve tie in 7th

Rodney, with just one run to his name over his first 12 innings with the A's, then managed to give up two runs in the eighth, and Emilio Pagan gave up a pair of insurance runs in the ninth, including a solo homer by Adeiny Hechavarria.

It was a somewhat ironic turn of events for the A's, who were able to deem the "opener" act a success in Round 2 despite the results suggesting otherwise.

"Liam had a good inning, and Daniel followed him up and did well," Melvin said. "We just didn't do enough offensively. We've tried to give them a break, as far as BP and so forth, but anytime you have 20 [games] in a row and guys playing every day, certainly there's a certain grind to it, but we have a pretty good offense. We can score some runs, we just didn't do that tonight."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Familia had McCutchen behind 1-2 before throwing him three straight balls to load the bases for Aaron Hicks, who was gifted a 3-0 count before Familia worked his way back in and watched Hicks foul off a full-count fastball. But his next pitch ran outside to bring in the tying run. Familia regrouped with two strikeouts, but the damage had been done.

"We've seen him lose command at times but then find it, and that's exactly what he did tonight," Melvin said. "I got a lot of faith in him, obviously. With a couple walks there and one walking in a run, I still felt like that was our best shot to get some strikeouts and keep it tied, and he did exactly that. But you're putting a lot of pressure on the pitching when you're not scoring."

Video: NYY@OAK: Familia fans Sanchez with the bases loaded

SOUND SMART
Left-hander Dean Kiekhefer made his A's debut in the ninth for his first Major League appearance since Oct. 12, 2016, with the Cardinals. Kiekhefer surrendered a single to his only batter, Brett Gardner.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Piscotty clobbered a fastball offering from Happ with one out in the second, collecting his seventh home run in his last 16 games. The right fielder is batting .361 with 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in that span.

Video: NYY@OAK: Piscotty opens scoring with a solo HR in 2nd

HE SAID IT
"We had a plan going in, and I think we executed it really well tonight. I was trying to keep them off the heater and mix in the cutters and sliders and changeups to both sides of the plate and just trying to execute and get strike one." -- Mengden

UP NEXT
Right-hander Mike Fiers (10-6, 3.38 ERA) will be on the mound for Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. PT series finale with the Yankees and ace Luis Severino (17-6, 3.32 ERA) at the Coliseum. After allowing a combined four runs over his first four starts with the A's, Fiers was tagged for five runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Mariners on Thursday.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Daniel Mengden, Stephen Piscotty