FYI, here is a copy of Joe Stiglich’s online story from the A’s 4-1 win over the Mariners in Tokyo earlier this morning.
TOKYO – Yoenis Cespedes authored his first big moment in an A’s uniform, and was it ever well-timed.
Oakland’s hitters were stuck in sleep mode Thursday until Cespedes lit into a 1-1 pitch from Shawn Kelley, lining a two-run homer in the seventh inning that spurred the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at the Tokyo Dome.
The win gained the A’s a split of a season-opening two-game series and ensured they boarded their flight home in good spirits after dropping Wednesday’s opener.
The A’s had managed just two hits when Cespedes connected off Kelley (0-1), hitting a laser into the seats in left-center for his first major league homer and RBI.
“Loud and fast,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said in describing the homer. “It was just a matter of time really. You just feel him getting more comfortable every day.”
It appeared to light a fire under his teammates.
Josh Reddick made it back-to-back homers with a shot to right field off George Sherrill for a 3-1 lead and Jonny Gomes went deep in the eighth to pad the lead.
“He definitely picked us up at a big time when we needed it,” Reddick said of Cespedes. “You tend to feed off that as a team and it becomes contagious.”
The offensive flurry made a deserving winner of right-hander Bartolo Colon, who was outstanding in his first start for the A’s. Colon allowed just three hits and one run over eight innings, the only damage coming on Justin Smoak’s homer in the top of the seventh that put Seattle ahead 1-0.
Colon was at 86 pitches after eight innings, but Melvin said he didn’t hesitate to bring in closer Grant Balfour, who delivered a 1-2-3 ninth.
Colon (1-0) hadn’t pitched in a big league game since a March 10 exhibition in Arizona. After he developed a blister on his finger, the A’s pitched him in two minor league games, and Melvin said Colon was maxed out on his pitch count after eight innings.
“I was mixing my pitches well,” Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “I tried to go inside a lot with my two-seamer.”
It was a big night for A’s newcomers, as Cespedes, Reddick, Gomes and Colon all are in their first seasons with Oakland.
What a shift in mindset for the A’s over a 24-hour span.
They were silenced on five hits in a 3-1 loss to open the season Wednesday, going 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
And they managed zilch through six innings Thursday against Seattle lefty Jason Vargas.
Things turned after Cespedes made Kelley pay for a hanging slider. Cespedes struggled handling breaking balls during Cactus League games, and his ability to adjust to breaking stuff likely holds the key to how he fares in the major leagues after signing a four-year $36 million contract March 3.
Cespedes was named the game’s MVP, getting interviewed in an on-field postgame ceremony and earning a check for 1 million yen – or $12,000.
A’s starters Brandon McCarthy and Colon combined to allow just nine hits and 2 runs over 15 innings in the series.
Oakland heads back to the Bay Area and will play four exhibitions before resuming regular season play April 6 against the Mariners at O.co Coliseum.