OAKLAND – A’s manager Bob Melvin often says Yoenis Cespedes steps up when the spotlight shines brightest.
On a night the A’s honored the 40th anniversary of their 1974 World Series championship, Cespedes treated a sellout crowd to quite a show in a 11-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
He terrorized the Angels -- with his arm, with his bat, with his legs. In doing so he helped the A’s take this three-game series against their closest American League West pursuer and will go for the sweep Sunday as they close out this seven-game homestand.
Cespedes single-handedly kept the Angels off the scoreboard in the top of the second, throwing out not one but two runners at the plate as they tried to score from second on singles. Then he delivered a go-ahead two-run triple in the seventh that highlighted a six-run seventh as the A’s erased a 3-1 deficit. He added a three-run homer in the eighth that gave him five RBI, tying his career high.
It was fitting that on a night the A’s went to great lengths to celebrate their history, the present-day club followed up with one of the most crowd-pleasing of victories.
With the victory, the A’s closed May with a 16-12 record – their 12th consecutive month with a winning record – and pushed their division lead to 3 ½ games over the Angels.
Starting pitching report
Tommy Milone dodged trouble in the early innings with help from his defense, but then served up Collin Cowgill’s three-run homer in the fourth that gave Los Angeles a 3-0 lead. Yet when all was said and done, Milone had a very respectable line, giving up just the three runs on nine hits over six innings.
He worked his way out of a bases loaded jam with no outs in the first, striking out David Freese, getting Howie Kendrick to pop up and C.J. Cron to hit into a fielder’s choice. Then Cespedes helped the lefty’s cause big-time in the second.
With runners on first and second and no outs, he fielded Cowgill’s single to left and threw a one-hop strike right on Derek Norris’ glove to nail Chris Iannetta. After Milone struck out Erick Aybar, Grant Green sent another single to left. It unfolded like a replay, as Cespedes fielded the ball, gathered himself and fired another on-the-money throw to the plate to cut down Kole Calhoun and end the inning.
Aside from those two plays, Cespedes began the inning by cutting off Iannetta’s base hit toward the left field corner, made a bare-hand grab off a bounce and held Iannetta to a single.
Fernando Rodriguez, Luke Gregerson and Fernando Abad closed things out after Milone left.
At the plate
Cespedes’ big night at the plate couldn’t have come at a better time. With Brandon Moss out day-to-day with a calf strain, Cespedes assumes the cleanup role in his absence. Melvin talked before the game about Cespedes’ recent struggles at the plate, as he came in mired in a 7-for-46 slump.
Cespedes looked like a different man at the plate Saturday. His double helped facilitate the A’s first scoring rally in the fourth, with Derek Norris’ sacrifice fly scoring Josh Donaldson on a close play at the plate.
Then the A’s batted around for the second consecutive night in the seventh. Until then, Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs had limited them to two hits through six innings. But Kyle Blanks led off the seventh with his second homer of the homestand to make it 3-2. The Angels loaded the bases on an intentional walk to Jed Lowrie to bring Josh Donaldson up with one out. His groundout brought home the tying run, then Cespedes drove a two-strike pitch to right off Joe Smith and just past the reaching effort of Cowgill. The two-run triple put the A’s ahead 5-3, and Alberto Callaspo added a two-run double before the inning ended.
Cespedes wasn’t done. He drilled a three-run homer down the left-field line in the eighth to cap his night.
In the field
Josh Reddick turned in an impressive catch on the warning track in right as part of a terrific night of defense for the A’s.
The A’s fourth sellout crowd of the season saw quite the pregame ceremony, as numerous players from the 1974 squad took their positions around the diamond, accompanied by current Athletics.
Sonny Gray (5-1, 2.31) draws an opposing ace for the second start in a row. On Sunday he matches up against Jered Weaver (6-3, 2.99) in a 1:05 p.m. game that wraps up this seven-game homestand.