Melvin: 'We just had a tough time figuring out Garza'
OAKLAND -- It was only a speed bump in the A's impressive first half of the 2013 season, but Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Cubs made one thing clear -- Yoenis Cespedes is struggling.
Oakland's cleanup hitter went 0-for-3 and misplayed three balls in left field.
"Every time you think its time to give him a day off and give him a bit of a blow, then he goes out and hits two home runs the next day, or something like that," A's manager Bob Melvin said, providing indication that Cespedes would not sit for the Fourth of July day game following Thursday's night game. "We always expect him, and feel like the next day he's going to come out and have a great game."
The A's better hope the Cuban native bounces back on America's birthday, because he's in a tailspin, and he appeared to take his offensive struggle into the field Wednesday. Cespedes is 9-for-55 (.164) with 21 strikeouts over his last 14 games. He hasn't hit over .235 in any month this season. And while the threat of a big hit is keeping him in the lineup, a defensive lapse would put Melvin in a difficult situation.
Melvin, whose vision of the left-field corner is obstructed from the dugout, said he didn't see clearly when Cespedes pulled up in front of flares from Nate Schierholtz and Julio Borbon Wednesday. Each play resulted in a triple.
"They were tough balls," Melvin said in his defense. "You've got to make a decision. If you go get it, trying to keep him from second base and it gets by you, it's going to be three. Those aren't easy plays when it's sliced away from you as a left-handed hitter."
Melvin nailed it. They aren't easy plays, but you have to be decisive, and Cespedes wasn't. He may have misread Schierholtz's ball, hesitating off the bat. Even still, his speed got him in position to make a play on the ball, but Cespedes did not dive or take a step back to keep the ball in front. Instead, he opted to throw an uninvested glove toward the short-hop in front of him and -- ceding triple -- turned to retrieve what he did not stop.
It was much the same on Borbon's hit, and it was reminiscent of plays early in Cespedes' rookie season, when he joined the team as a center fielder. While his supreme athleticism enables him to make plays other humans could not, Cespedes showed a tendency not to finish every defensive play. It haunted him in center field in 2012, when he was unable to squeeze a number of deep drives, resulting in a relocation to left field. And it plagued him on Wednesday, when Cespedes dared Cubs third-base coach David Bell to send 'em home with his approach to the balls that got passed him. Let's just say he wasn't exactly sprinting back to the wall.
Chris Young, the natural center fielder who is making a team-high $8.7 million this year, watched from the bench.
Fortunately for Cespedes and the A's, Bartolo Colon stranded both runners at third base on Wednesday, but Oakland can't afford to have a corner outfielder who is not fully committed to every defensive play, especially one who is hitting .224 on the season.
"He's one of those guys that's in the middle of the order for a reason," Melvin affirmed.
No one questions his power potential, but with a sub-.300 on-base percentage this season, that reason is disappearing into the rear-view mirror.