OAKLAND – Manager Bob Melvin talked about left fielder Yoenis Cespedes’ recent offensive struggles before Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
Melvin said he wasn’t too concerned about Cespedes being mired in a 7 for 46 slump the previous 11 games because of how hard Cespedes works on a daily basis. It was only a matter of time, he added.
Almost as if on cue, Cespedes turned in a jaw-dropping, all-around performance that he punctuated with a two-out, two-run triple in the seventh inning to break a tie and propel the A’s to an 11-3 victory before a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum.
For good measure, Cespedes mashed a three-run home run in the eighth as he matched his career-high with five RBI.
“Boy, I tell you, there were several things he did that really affected the game (Saturday),” Melvin said. “Certainly the first two throws” can’t be overlooked.
That the A’s were even within striking distance at that point owed in large part to Cespedes’ play in the field – he also had the A’s first hit of the game, in the fourth – namely the throws Melvin referenced.
Twice in the same inning, Cespedes nailed Angels runners at the plate as they attempted to score from second base on a single.
Right fielder Josh Reddick and third baseman Josh Donaldson also turned in sparkling defensive plays.
“Those plays don’t go without notice,” Reddick said of Cespedes’ spot-on throws. “Tommy’s kind of struggling there early on, and you try to do your best to pick up your team, and that’s what he did. He made two huge throws.”
Few were more thankful than A’s starter Tommy Milone, who survived two rocky innings to start the game and a three-run home run in the fourth before being replaced after six frames.
“That’s definitely a good sight to see, especially when I’m struggling a little bit, giving up a lot of hits,” Milone said of Cespedes’ defensive gems. “It’s nice to kind of catch a break every once in a while. He had a career night, and I’m lucky that it was today.”
Milone entered the game as hot as any pitcher in the game the past three-plus weeks. He posted a 3-0 mark with a 1.03 ERA in his previous four starts.
Colin Cowgill accounted for as many runs on one swing as Milone allowed in the 26 1/3 innings he pitched in those four games before Saturday.
Yet, he did what A’s pitchers are known for: keeping games close enough to where the offense has a chance to mount a comeback.
Milone did just that, with a lot of help from Cespedes and Donaldson, who snared a line drive and turned it into a spectacular double play in the fourth to save a run.
But it was Cespedes who elicited the loudest cheers, from start to finish, and received the most high-fives from teammates.
His highlight-reel game came on the same night the A’s honored their 1974 brethren for winning the World Series that season. Melvin said it’s not a coincidence that Cespedes raised his level of play on such a night.
“No doubt about it,” Melvin said. “… When we needed him, he stepped up. All the festivities, everything going on before, the fans were out in full force doing their thing and all of a sudden he just becomes a different player.”
Cespedes agreed that he feeds off the excitement.
“I get a lot of motivation when I see the field like that, with the stands full,” Cespedes said, through an interpreter. “It was the same thing as it was in the playoffs. It was sold out and they made me feel like a strong mind and gave me a lot of motivation.”
– Craig Gentry started in place of Coco Crisp in center field on Saturday night. Melvin said Crisp is working through some nagging injuries. Gentry also filled in for Crisp in the lead-off spot. Crisp delivered a pinch-hit single for Reddick in the seventh and later scored. He also walked, stole a base and scored in the eighth.
– Melvin said he pinch-hit for Reddick because Reddick hyperextended his right knee while making a difficult catch on a ball near the wall for the final out of the sixth. Reddick said “we’ll find out” Sunday, when asked about the condition of his knee.
– Reliever Ryan Cook pitched one inning for Single-A Stockton on Saturday night. He made it through the inning on nine pitches. Cook is returning from a right (throwing) arm injury. Melvin said he is hopeful that Cook needs only one or two rehab outings before he rejoins the A’s bullpen.
– The A’s upped their lead in the American League West to 3 1/2 games over the second-place Angels. They go for the three-game sweep Sunday, with Sonny Gray (5-1, 2.31 ERA) opposing Jered Weaver (6-3, 2.99).