Athletics defeat Yankees in 18 innings, sweep three-game series

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It took five hours and 34 minutes, but the Athletics finished off a three-game sweep of the Yankees with a 3-2 win in 18 innings this evening at O.Co Coliseum.

Nate Freiman played hero for the Athletics, as he dropped a one-out single into left field off Mariano Rivera to drive in John Jaso for the winning run. Preston Claiborne began the inning and got Derek Norris to ground out to second base, but he was pulled in favor of Rivera after he gave up a single to Jaso. Rivera then allowed a bloop single to Seth Smith and intentionally walked Jed Lowrie to set-up Freiman for the game-winning hit.

By the way, this was the latest that Rivera had ever pitched in a game. Yes, even in his 19th and final season, the all-time saves leader still has some firsts left.

The Athletics nearly won the game three innings earlier on a single by Coco Crisp. However, Vernon Wells made a strong throw to the plate and Chris Stewart held on after a collision with Brandon Moss to get the out.

The Yankees got a two-run homer from Robinson Cano off Jarrod Parker in the first inning, but they were held off the board for the next 17 frames. Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Wells went a combined 0-for-28 and had three strikeouts each. Ouch.

This is the third game this month to go 18 innings or more, joining Rangers-Blue Jays (18 innings) and Marlins-Mets (20 innings) from this past Saturday. As ESPN’s Jayson Stark notes, that doesn’t happen often.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.