NEW YORK -- The Oakland A's are in a stretch of games against some of the best competition the American League has to offer.
With a 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday, Oakland has gone 7-6 in that stretch. They've faced the teams leading the AL East (Blue Jays, 0-3) and Central (Tigers, 2-2), the runner-up in the West (Angels, 3-0) and the team that was runner-up in the East when the series began (Yankees, 2-1). The tough schedule continues with road series against Baltimore, the new runner-up in the East, and the Angels, followed by the Yankees in Oakland.
With the exception of the three-game slip-up in Toronto, the A's have appeared stronger than ever. They have the best record in the AL at 37-23, and they haven't backed down from any challenges.
Even Thursday, when the A's failed to break through in the eighth and ninth innings as they've done so much this season, it was a case of shoulder-shrugging and moving on.
"The thing we all know in this clubhouse is that we don't quit," catcher Stephen Vogt said. Vogt, shoved into right field Thursday so the A's could have an extra bat, made a nice play on defense and had a couple hits, including one in the ninth.
"We're not going to stop getting good at-bats. It's just sometimes it doesn't work."
Now, heading into Baltimore, Oakland is something of a faceless juggernaut, perhaps not led by any big names, but leading the AL in wins while leading the majors in both ERA (2.90) and runs scored (309).
A team with back-to-back AL West titles is, 60 games into the season, in position for a three-peat if the level of performance can be sustained.
The clearly the A's believe it can be sustained. Drew Pomeranz, who has come from the deepest recesses of the A's bullpen to post a 4-2 record and a 2.30 ERA as a starter even after taking the loss Thursday, said the Yankees and their 9-1 starter Masahiro Tanaka were fortunate to catch the A's offense on a down day.
"I think he was a little bit lucky the way our hitters have been putting up so many runs," Pomeranz said. "I don't think it makes a big difference who the opposing pitcher is. These guys have done such a good job scoring runs no matter who the other team is throwing."
Tuesday saw the A's held down for seven innings, only to tie the game in the eighth and win it in the 10th. Wednesday saw the Yankees take a 4-0 lead only to have Oakland blow past them for a 7-4 win.
The script Thursday was the same, only the outcome was different.
Oakland got the first two men on base in the eighth, but Josh Donaldson struck out, Brandon Moss' sinking liner was caught by Ichiro Suzuki with a nice sprint and slide, and Yoenis Cespedes struck out.
Vogt singled with one out in the ninth, and pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second and took third on a wild pitch before the game ended with Derek Norris taking a called third strike.
"We've had a lot of those opportunities we've come through on," said John Jaso, whose two hits included a first-inning homer that provided Oakland its only run. "But you have to remember we are still facing big league pitchers, and hitting isn't that easy to do.
"It was bound to happen that we wouldn't do it one time. But overall, I'd say our ratio is pretty good."
Good enough that the A's feel they can take one loss in stride.
Vogt was in the outfield in a big league game for the first time since 2012 with Josh Reddick on the disabled list and the A's in need of another left-handed bat.
Coco Crisp was back in the lineup in center field Thursday after getting a day off as he deals with ongoing neck problems. Crisp had some trouble fighting the Yankee Stadium sun, falling down to make one catch having another fall for a double. "It's a day game; there's going to be sun," Crisp said. "You just deal with it the best you can."
Lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty, on track to return from the disabled list late this month or in early July, will throw in his first minor league game Friday with Class-A Stockton as he works his way back from Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery. He's scheduled to throw one inning.
Shortstop prospect Addison Russell, who has been working out at the A's extended spring training, will start an injury rehabilitation assignment Sunday with Class-A Stockton.
Jim Johnson pitched the eighth inning in relief of Pomeranz, allowing one two-out hit. He has a 1.84 ERA in games on the road and a 14.04 ERA in home games with the A's heading to Baltimore, the team for which he had 50-save seasons in 2012 and 2013.
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