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NYY@OAK: Milone limits Yanks to two runs despite loss

OAKLAND -- The A's offense showed signs of improvement in the first two games of their weekend set against New York, as the 14 hits and five runs the team totaled represented a small step forward from the low point reached in the previous series against the Angels.

But in Sunday's series finale against the Yankees, Oakland took a giant leap backward. The A's managed just five hits in falling, 2-0, at O.Co Coliseum, wasting another solid start by rookie left-hander Tommy Milone in the process.

It was the eighth time Oakland has been shut out this season, tying the club with the Halos for the most in the Major Leagues. The A's have now lost five games in a row -- adding to their worst streak all season -- since defeating the Angels in the opener of the homestand, and they fell a season-low four games under .500, at 22-26.

Manager Bob Melvin said he thinks his hitters are "beyond pressing," and need to be able to relax more at the plate.

"Anytime you're struggling like this, it kind of eats at you," said left fielder Seth Smith. "Even though we're big league hitters, we don't like to fail. When you're not getting the job done a lot of times, you try to get it back in one swing or one at-bat or one game."

Melvin has some important bats set to rejoin the team soon, beginning with third baseman Brandon Inge on Monday. On Sunday, though, he was still without those reinforcements, and found his team still spinning its wheels at the plate against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda.

The game got off to a solid start for Oakland's bats, with second baseman Jemile Weeks leading off with a single in the first inning. But Kuroda, who had lost his last two starts, retired the next 11 batters he faced and scattered three other hits over the rest of his eight innings. Oakland managed one threat, in the seventh inning, but designated hitter Kila Ka'aihue and third baseman Josh Donaldson couldn't get the job done with center fielder Coco Crisp on third and Smith on first.

Crisp got to third after singling and then stealing twice, giving him the franchise record for most consecutive successful swipes. He's stolen 29 consecutive bases without getting caught, dating back to last year.

"I didn't even know I had that, to be honest, but any accomplishment is a pretty cool thing," Crisp said. "Other than that, I really don't know what to say about it, because I really didn't know about it until you just brought it up."

Milone, who has dominated all season at the Coliseum, wasn't his usual sharp self to start out, allowing seven Yankees to reach base in the first three innings. He did settle down after that and finished with a solid line of two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings of work, but a second-inning home run by New York designated hitter Andruw Jones was the only offense the road team would need all afternoon. Mark Teixeira added to the Yankees' output with an RBI double in the seventh.

"I've never seen [Milone], so all I know is from videos," Jones said. "Watching the video, he likes to throw the first pitch up and away, and he just made a little mistake out over the plate, and I just had a good swing. After that, he pitched great. He started using his cutter and using his curveball, and shut us down after that."

Milone admitted after the game that it's been tough to pitch the way the team's offense has been performing -- he said it almost feels like he can't afford to make any mistakes.

"Obviously you're out there and the hitting is struggling a little bit, and you want to obviously keep the team on top, and sometimes it's hard, because you feel like you have to make the perfect pitch every pitch," Milone said.

"Sometimes it gets away from you and it doesn't end up happening, but you just got to go out there and think, 'Just pitch your game,' and hopefully it works out."

The loss meant that Oakland was swept in a three-game series for the first time all season, and the team has now lost its last nine games against the Yankees. All told, the A's went just 29-for-185 as a team over the six-game homestand -- their 5-for-30 day on Sunday actually raised their average in that span to .157.

Oakland now travels to Minnesota and Kansas City for a six-game road swing, which might be a good thing for Melvin's club. Oakland is 12-11 away from home this season, compared to 10-15 at the Coliseum.

"It's frustrating, and for me, personally, embarrassing," said Smith, one of eight A's in Sunday's lineup with a batting average under .250. "At the same time, it's behind us. All we can do is move forward. We're not going to take this with us."

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