OAKLAND -- The A's 5-2 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday night gave them their 20th win in their last 25 games.
Essentially everything has gone right for the A's in that span. Everything except Sean Doolittle.
Somewhere along the way, Oakland's lefty reliever fell from perfection back down to earth, giving up runs over a string of outings that led to three of the club's five losses since May 17.
But Doolittle is back to being his dominant self, and now the A's, who got two home runs from Brandon Moss and a pair of RBIs from John Jaso on Wednesday, can seemingly do no wrong.
They've won four of five from New York this year, giving them their first season-series victory over the Yankees since 2007, and they're back alone in first place in the American League West..
"The thing is," Doolittle said, "I didn't feel like I left. I still felt so good on the mound, that's why things were so frustrating. But I'm taking a lot of confidence away from these past couple of outings, that's for sure. Definitely a good way to kind of turn things around, a good place to start moving forward."
His manager, Bob Melvin, never strayed from his confidence in Doolittle, so it really wasn't much of a surprise when he opted to turn to the southpaw, who tossed a scoreless inning in Tuesday's win, with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh inning on Wednesday, clinging to a one-run lead.
Austin Romine was at the plate, having already clocked a 1-0 count against starter Dan Straily, with Jayson Nix stealing second. At this point, Yankees manager Joe Girardi chose to bring in Lyle Overbay to pinch-hit, forcing Melvin to make his move with Doolittle. By the time Doolittle reached the mound, it was Chris Stewart at the plate.
"I got to the mound, and Bob said, 'You have Stewart now,'" Doolittle said. "I've never done that before, with a 1-0 count, that was weird."
It worked out just fine.
Doolittle quickly filled the count, all by way of fastballs, three of them reaching 94 mph. Then he did something he had never done before, according to BrooksBaseball.net, in the 48 previous times he had reached a 3-2 count in his career. Doolittle threw a changeup.
It barely peaked above 80 mph, and Stewart froze. Strike three.
"That's what we've been talking about, mixing it up a little bit," Doolittle said. "He saw some stuff last night, when I was mixing it up, but based on the way he kind of hooked a fastball, I was right on the same page with Jaso. I was definitely with him on that changeup."
Overall, it was the third strikeout tallied by Doolittle with a changeup in 13 tries with a two-strike count of any sort.
"My guess was going to be a slider," said a smiling Straily, "because he's been mixing speeds more."
The A's sent Doolittle a "thank you" by posting two runs in the bottom half of the next inning, one courtesy of Moss' second home run of the night, after he had retired three in a row to set up Grant Balfour for his 17th save of the season and 35th in as many chances dating back to last year, putting him five away from the A's record set by Dennis Eckersley in 1992.
Those efforts also preserved another outstanding performance from Straily, who limited the Yankees to two runs on just three hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He is now 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his last five starts.
"He's on a roll," Melvin said. "We're giving him more and more rope to face tough at-bats in the game. He's pitching with a lot of confidence right now, and he's been terrific."
"It's awesome," Doolittle said of his teammate. "It's a guy I've played with in the Minor Leagues who showed absolutely electric stuff, and to see him continue to take the ball and, with each start, get better and show more poise and more maturity, it's great to see. He's pitching deeper into games consistently now. He's kind of showing everyone the kind of pitcher he can be."
Everyone already knows what type of hitter Moss can be. The A's first baseman, making his first start since Wednesday because of a slew of opposing left-handers in the way, now has just five hits in his last 40 at-bats, but all five have been home runs.
"I'll take that," Moss said. "It's not what I want to be, obviously. I'd much rather be getting hits also. But I said that a long time ago. Last year and the year before that. I've done that before where I sacrificed power for hits. And it still didn't turn out well. Obviously there's not much difference between a .220 and .240 hitter at one point, but if you're able to contribute and drive in runs when you do connect, it's definitely better off than getting your singles."
The long balls let everyone temporarily forget that Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp, sidelined by injuries, weren't even in the lineup. It was just the 13th time in 32 tries the A's have won without both of those players.
"To have two of those guys out, it's definitely something where the rest of the lineup has to pick up the slack," Moss said. "To be able to do that tonight and help felt really good."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.