OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rarely does a manager call to the bullpen and talk directly to a pitcher. That's the way Joe Girardi opted to do it with Mariano Rivera after the eighth inning -- and it was a first this year for the skipper. The bullpen coach typically serves as the go-between.
Rivera bounced back from a tough outing one day earlier to stay perfect on saves and Chien-Ming Wang ended the worst stretch of his career with his first victory in seven starts in the New York Yankees' 3-1 victory against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
"I saw Rivera stretching and that gave me an idea," said Girardi, who considered going with Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth. "I wanted him to tell me."
Wang took advantage of an early lead and an insurance run on Melky Cabrera's solo home run in the ninth inning. Rivera pitched the ninth for his 17th save in as many chances, coming back after allowing a game-winning home run a day earlier. This is the best start of his career.
"It took one second," Rivera said of his conversation with Girardi. "He asked me to tell him the truth and I told him the truth. If he calls me tomorrow, I'll tell him I'll be ready. I've been feeling really good."
The Yankees staked Wang to a 2-0 lead in the first on RBI singles by Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, who was booed by his former crowd seven years after he left the A's following the 2001 season. Johnny Damon had two singles in the leadoff spot and has hit safely in 18 of his past 20 games, and Bobby Abreu singled twice and drew two walks for New York.
Wang (7-2) even had his share of fans in the modest Coliseum crowd of 26,402 in his first start against the A's since 2006. The Taiwanese right-hander hadn't won since beating the Seattle Mariners on May 2 to start the season 6-0 and had been tagged for 23 earned runs in his past four outings.
"This is a big help for my confidence," Wang said. "I trusted my pitches. I sped up my arm and I felt more like myself."
Wang got through the first on seven pitches -- and that's after he plunked Jack Hannahan with his first offering of the night as the clubs opened a three-game series with their first meeting of 2008. Oakland put its leadoff hitter aboard in each of the first seven innings. Wang allowed one earned run and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings, struck out two and walked two on an efficient 83 pitches.
"He was getting through the ball better and it was all about his arm speed," pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "If your arm speed is there, you can get to your arm slot and everything falls into place."
New York began a six-game road trip after losing 3-2 to Kansas City on Monday, when Rivera gave up a tiebreaking ninth-inning home run to the Royals' Jose Guillen on the way to his second defeat of the year.
Mark Ellis hit a pair of doubles, singled and drove in a run for the A's two days after his game-winning grand slam in the 12th inning against the rival Los Angeles Angels. The A's had won five of seven but Oakland missed key chances by grounding into double plays in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
The A's loaded the bases in the seventh. Ellis singled, Travis Buck (one batter later) and Carlos Gonzalez singled to center but Buck had to stay put at third. Kurt Suzuki then hit into a double play.
"It's frustrating because when we needed to get a big hit we didn't get it," manager Bob Geren said. "Having opportunities and then squandering them with the double play ball hurt us tonight."
The Yankees (33-32) moved back above .500. They headed into this game at .500 for the 22nd time, matching the 1959 Chicago Cubs for the most times at the even mark in major league history through 64 games, according to The Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's good to be over .500, but we need to be over-over," Girardi said. "We've had some opportunities the last couple weeks we couldn't take advantage of. We need to take advantage of those."
Oakland's Dana Eveland (4-5) struggled to find any consistency in his first career outing against the Yankees, surrendering a season-high six walks in six innings. The lefty allowed four hits and two runs with three strikeouts.
He has only one victory in his past eight starts and had gone 4 1/3 innings in each of his previous two outings since pitching a three-hitter for his first career complete game against Tampa Bay on May 21.
Home plate umpire Jerry Crawford took a foul tip off his mask and right collarbone area with Derek Jeter at the plate leading off the third. Crawford was clearly in pain and A's athletic trainer Steve Sayles came out to check on him. Crawford stayed in the game.
Jeter saw the end to his 17-game hitting streak in the Coliseum.
Cabrera's seventh home run snapped a 19-inning scoreless streak by Oakland's bullpen. Yankees reliever Jose Veras threw four consecutive pitches at 98 mph. ... The A's are 12-8 vs. the AL East. ... The Yankees were the last AL team Oakland had yet to face this year -- and this was the clubs' first meeting in nearly a year since they played last June 29. Oakland has already played Boston seven times. ... The Yankees released INF Morgan Ensberg and minor league 1B Ben Broussard. ... Injured A's DH Frank Thomas (knee and hamstring injury) will travel from Las Vegas where he has been rehabilitating to Los Angeles for a doctor's appointment Wednesday. The 40-year-old Big Hurt could be back in action June 20 after the A's play interleague in NL parks and don't need the DH. "That'd be close," Geren said. "He felt that his swing could come back quickly."