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Yankees come up short, fail to sweep A's

Sunday - 9/23/2012, 7:25pm  ET

By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Derek Jeter says he's not injured. Still, manager Joe Giardi is being cautious with one of his most consistent stars.

Limiting the Yankees captain to the role of designated hitter because of a sore ankle has forced the mistake-prone Eduardo Nunez into playing shortstop.

It hurt New York on Sunday.

Nunez's throwing error in the sixth inning set up Cliff Pennington's go-ahead RBI, and the Yankees had their seven-game winning streak come to an end with a 5-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

"I think it's more that you worry about the more he's on it, the better chance he has of, I don't know what you want to call it, re-injuring it or irritating it more than it already is," Girardi said of Jeter.

Jeter has played shortstop in only three of the last nine games after bruising his ankle trying to beat out a throw against Boston.

"I don't have a physical issue," Jeter said. "I'm fine to play."

The Yankees kept their one-game lead in the AL East because Baltimore lost in Boston. Despite the defeat, the Yankees have to like their chances to win the division _ their final 10 games are against three teams with records below .500.

"We control what happens," Jeter said. "We play how we're capable of, we win our games. We really don't have to look at the scoreboard."

A day after their stunning 14-inning loss _ capped by a misplay on Nunez's grounder _ the A's maintained their 2 1/2-game lead for the second AL wild-card spot over the Angels.

Alex Rodriguez nearly tied it again for the Yankees, hitting a drive off closer Grant Balfour in the ninth that Josh Reddick caught with his back against the wall in right field.

"I thought it had a chance," Girardi said.

Balfour did, too, after Oakland twice lost in extra innings in the Bronx.

"The way things went for us in this series, you never know," Balfour said.

The A's lost a 10-9 heartbreaker Saturday when Brandon Moss misplayed Nunez's spinning grounder for an error with two outs in the 14th. This time they took advantage of Nunez's two-base throwing error on a tough play with one out in the sixth.

An out after Josh Donaldson reached second base, Pennington, the No. 9 batter, singled to left field for his third hit and a 5-4 lead. Pennington earlier hit a two-run homer.

"To lose two games in extra innings is tough, especially when these games mean so much," Pennington said. "It was really still just another game, but it was a big one."

Nunez, demoted in May because of his struggles in the field, also made an error in the seventh when he failed to get the ball cleanly out of his glove on Yoenis Cespedes' grounder.

"I have to keep practicing defense. I have to keep working," Nunez said. "Tomorrow's a different day."

Cespedes had a tying single in the fifth after a wild pitch from Hiroki Kuroda (14-11). The A's scored a run in the first on another wild pitch by the Yankees starter.

Jerry Blevins (5-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings in relief of A.J. Griffin.

In a seesaw series, the A's opened a 3-0 lead but the Yankees rallied for four runs in the fourth before Cespedes tied it.

"Rarely do you lose a game like you did last night, and I think coming back from something like that and scoring early in the game showed some fight right away," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It was a big game."

Oakland scored four runs in the 13th inning of Saturday's 5-hour, 43-minute game, but the Yankees came back. The A's bullpen locked this one down, though, with 4 2-3 innings of shutout ball. Ryan Cook worked 1 1-3 innings, Sean Doolittle went an inning and Balfour finished for his 20th save.

Donaldson led off the second by beating out a grounder to shortstop. But replays clearly showed Donaldson's foot a few feet from coming down on first base when Nick Swisher caught Nunez's low throw. Two batters later, Pennington homered to right field for a 3-0 lead.

The young A's _ 14 rookies on the roster _ kept right on celebrating in their dugout, a day after former teammate and current Yankee Eric Chavez told a New York columnist that Oakland's rhythmic clapping during its three-homer spurt in the 13th inning was "high schoolish."

But in this tight series the Yankees rallied again, and Raul Ibanez was right in the mix in the fourth inning.

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