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NYY@OAK: Freiman's single wins it in the 18th

OAKLAND -- No one could have predicted the time of this game, or the faces that helped it end.

But the outcome? Well, it was almost all too expected.

Because in Oakland, where the first-place A's have won 21 of 26 -- and 108 of 168 since this exact day last year -- they're running out of ways to surprise.

So the fact that they won their 11th consecutive game at the Coliseum by sweeping the Yankees with a 3-2 win in 18 innings after 5 hours and 35 minutes of grueling play Thursday -- against a future Hall of Fame closer in Mariano Rivera -- it really just amounted to yet another typical work day for these unstoppable A's, who are still carrying around the Mary Poppins-size bag of magic they discovered last year.

Nate Freiman wasn't even around for Oakland's 2012 playoff run. He was playing in Double-A San Antonio. Now he's beating up on a Yankees team he rooted against from Fenway Park as a kid.

Fifteen innings since a run had last scored, five since long reliever Jesse Chavez had begun retiring a slew of Yankees, Freiman stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 18th. John Jaso was on third after he hustled from first on Seth Smith's blooper of a base hit to left field off Preston Claiborne. Smith stood on second, after Rivera intentionally walked Jed Lowrie.

"I saw that situation develop," Freiman said. "I thought that they were going to walk Jed. I don't bat a lot against righties. I haven't had a lot of success against them this year, so I saw it coming, figured that was going to be my at-bat there."

He took a ball. Then he watched for a strike, anything he could elevate in the air for a simple sacrifice fly to put the game to rest. But this game couldn't end like that, not without a dramatic flair. So, instead, he pushed a single to left field, off a broken bat that now rests in his locker as a memento.

"It was his deal, that one he always throws," said Freiman, referring to Rivera's storied cutter. "When he throws it in, it can saw you off a little, and it sawed me off pretty good. I've used that bat for a while, and if it's gonna break, it's a pretty good way for it to go.

"I made sure that one went into my locker. I'm going to hold onto that bat."

This stuff only happens in dreams, right?

"There are a couple of people that, regardless of the team you root for, you can't really root against -- Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera," Freiman said. "I've been a Red Sox fan my whole life, and I've always admired the way Rivera's carried himself throughout his career, the professionalism and class. So that was a big thrill."

It was a big relief, too.

The only reason Freiman entered the game in the 16th was because Oakland's iron man, Josh Donaldson, was forced into the trainer's room with a right hamstring cramp. He's day to day, as is Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) and Coco Crisp, who came into the marathon in the 15th despite dealing with heel pain.

"It had to be a situation where he could get a hit to win the game," manager Bob Melvin said. "He was all for it."

Crisp finished with two hits in as many at-bats, the first nearly finishing off the game an hour before it did end, had left fielder Vernon Wells' perfect throw to catcher Chris Stewart not been so perfect, and had Stewart not responded with a perfect block of a charging Brandon Moss at the plate.

But the game, tied at 2 since the third, continued, and so did folk hero Chavez in dominant fashion, needing 71 pitches in 5 2/3 shutout relief innings to stave off the Yankees.

Before the day started, Chavez was just another body in the A's bullpen who hadn't been used in eight days. It should've turned into nine, considering starter Jarrod Parker allowed just two runs -- on a first-inning homer by Robinson Cano -- in a season-high eight innings. But Yankees righty Hiroki Kuroda also went eight, and he also only gave up two runs.

By the end, following the longest day game in Oakland history, each club had used seven pitchers.

"That last guy they threw," said New York's Mark Teixeira of Chavez, who struck out seven, "he was the best guy we faced all day. That guy is nasty. We didn't do our job, but give them credit as well."

"It's just really phenomenal, because he knows that's it," Melvin said of Chavez. "It's the last line of defense. Our next guy is Tommy Milone. He knows he's going to be out there for a while."

Milone now gets to start Friday, as planned. And Chavez is likely headed back to Triple-A Sacramento, allowing the A's to bring up a fresh arm.

"I knew I was going to be in it for the long haul," Chavez said. "I was going to tell Bob I wanted to go until we scored. I knew we didn't have anyone else. I didn't want to burn one of our starters."

The A's -- who became the first American League team with two games of 18 or more innings in one season since 1971 (Washington and Oakland) -- did just that in their last epic affair, when they outlasted the Angels in 19 innings in April. They lost Brett Anderson to a foot injury after that game, also Crisp and Chris Young to leg injuries. Now they're in danger of being without Donaldson for a few days. Crisp, too.

But a constant array of adversity, and an ability to overcome it time and time again, is what's partly made this team so strong.

And they've yet to be broken.

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