(Sports Network) - Fresh off belting his 500th career homer as a professional, Hideki Matsui will lead the Athletics into his old stomping grounds on Friday when Oakland opens up a three-game series against the New York Yankees.
New York has traditionally been a house of horrors for the A's, who have dropped 12 of their last 13 in the Bronx with the last win coming on July 25, 2009. Overall the Yankees have taken 10 straight and 14 of 15 over Oakland, including a three-game sweep in the Bay Area back on May 30-June 1.
The last place Athletics arrive in the Big Apple after splitting a pair of games in Detroit. Matsui, a beloved ex-Yankee, highlighted a four-run seventh on Wednesday with a go-ahead RBI single, one inning after his historic long ball, as Oakland salvaged the back end of the short set with a 7-5 victory.
The Athletics opened up the deciding frame by drawing three straight walks off Tigers reliever David Purcey (1-2). All three base runners eventually scored, with Matsui plating Coco Crisp from second with a base hit to right.
"We don't hit a lot of home runs, we don't hit a lot of extra-base hits, but the way we beat [the Tigers] today was singling them to death and driving in key runs with two outs and taking what they gave us," A's interim manager Bob Melvin said.
Conor Jackson added an insurance run in the inning with an RBI single and Andrew Bailey worked around a one-out walk in the ninth inning to record the 61st save of his career, matching Jay Howell for sixth on the club's all-time list.
It also gave Oakland its fourth victory in six games since entering the All- Star break on a four-game slide and just its sixth in the last 30 games on the road. The A's, however, remain in the cellar of the American League West well back of Texas' pace.
Duane Below, a hometown product making his major league debut for the Tigers, served up Matsui's milestone homer. The 37-year-old designated hitter opened up the sixth inning by smacking a fastball from Below off the right field foul pole for his seventh homer of the season and first since June 16.
Just 25 major league players and eight in the Japanese Leagues have reached the 500-plateau, but Matsui is the first to combine in the two leagues for the magic number.
"Five-hundred home runs is quite a feat. I don't care if it was split two different places," said Melvin. "It's the Major Leagues in Japan, it's the Major Leagues here. Five-hundred home runs is quite a tribute to an incredible player."
Matsui has hit 168 of his homers in the States, including 140 over seven seasons with the Yankees, where he culminated his stay in 2009 by taking home World Series MVP honors as the Yankees earned their 27th world championship.
Hard-luck right-hander Trevor Cahill will take the hill for the A's in the opener of the set looking for his first career win over the Yankees.
Cahill is 8-8 on the 2011 season with a solid 3.16 earned run average but has dropped three straight decisions, the latest coming against Anaheim back on July 16. The righty worked seven solid innings in defeat, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out eight and walking five. Meanwhile, against New York, Cahill has been dismal and is 0-3 in three starts, allowing 18 earned runs in just 16 2/3 innings of work.
Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes, who has struggled to build up his arm strength this year after winning 18 games for the club in 2010, will oppose Cahill. Hughes, a pitcher that relies on a solid fastball and a sharp breaking curve, is coming off his first win of this season, a 7-2 triumph in Toronto last week in which he went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five.
"He was great today. He had good command and good composure out there," Yankees catcher Russell Martin after Hughes' triumph north of the border. "He just looked confident."
A Mission Viejo, Calif. native, Hughes has dominated Oakland in the past, compiling a 2-0 career mark versus the A's with a 1.62 ERA. In fact, Hughes has allowed just seven hits to the Athletics in 16 2/3 innings pitched.
The Yankees were denied a series win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, as they dropped a 2-1 decision at Tropicana Field.
CC Sabathia (14-5) celebrated his 31st birthday with his third complete game of the year, but it was in a losing effort. He allowed the two Rays runs on five hits and four walks. He also struck out eight.
"That's baseball. It's unfortunate that we only got one run, but you're going to lose some games like that during the season," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Robinson Cano had two hits, including a run-scoring double, for the Yankees, who lost for only the second time in their last six tries.