Slow, slower and slowest. Those seemed to be the three speeds of Tom Candiotti's pitches Wednesday night as he baffled the mighty New York Yankees with his knuckleball.
"He knows how to make his knuckleball dance and he knows how to throw it slow," said Darryl Strawberry, who struck out on an excruciatingly slow knuckler to end the game. "I didn't expect the ball to be that slow."
Candiotti (7-13) was tempted to try to finish the game with a fastball, but decided to stick with his knuckler because he knew Strawberry was struggling with that pitch.
"The harder he swung, the slower I threw," Candiotti said. "He just couldn't lay off it."
Irabu allowed only a soft RBI single by Rafael Bournigal in the fifth and Rickey Henderson's homer in the eighth in pitching his second complete game of the season.
"He was dominant. He had the dominant stuff tonight," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Irabu, who struck out five and walked two. "He was pretty impressive. It was a hell of a game on both sides."
Candiotti, throwing some pitches as slow as 50 mph, walked two and struck out six in his seconcomplete game of the season. He won his second straight start after losing nine of his previous 10 decisions.
The only run off Candiotti came on Tino Martinez's 18th homer of the season leading off the fifth.
Candiotti walked Martinez with two outs in the ninth but then struck out Strawberry, who had homered in the first three games of the series.
"He was keeping them off balance with three knucklers -- the hard one (65-68 mph), the medium one (55-65 mph) and the slow one (48-55 mph)," A's catcher A.J. Hinch said. "That sucker was working all night."
Candiotti worked out of a jam in the seventh. He loaded the bases with one out, but got Chad Curtis and Jorge Posada on fly balls to center. Curtis' fly was too shallow to drive in the tying run from third base.
"That knuckler is so unpredictable," Torre said. "It can make a team look so bad."
Irabu (10-5) had a no-hitter through four innings, but gave up two runs in the fifth on a hit batsman, a walk, Bournigal's run-scoring single to shallow right and a sacrifice fly by Hinch.
Henderson hit his ninth homer of the season with two outs in the eighth.
The Yankees had won the first three games of the series, outscoring the A's 34-10 in those games.
"We threw them fastballs the last couple of nights and that didn't work, so we decided we'd try the other direction tonight," A's manager Art Howe said. "He was the story tonight. Candy just picked the team up, put us on his shoulders and carried us tonight."
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