OAKLAND – Yoenis Cespedes made like another home run crown was at stake Wednesday night, twice clearing the fence in the A’s 9-7 victory over the Houston Astros.
His chance to make it an even bigger night was cut short when he suffered what appeared to be a right thumb injury during his fifth-inning at-bat. Cespedes stayed in to play defense in the sixth but was replaced by Craig Gentry to start the top of the seventh.
That was the bittersweet twist of events on a night the A’s jumped out to a 9-2 lead, then hung on for dear life to close it out. Cespedes connected for a three-run homer in the second and a two-run shot in the fourth, tying his career high with five RBI. Jed Lowrie also went deep as the A’s evened this three-game series leading into Thursday’s matinee finale.
In two-plus years with the A’s, Cespedes has shown how he can catch fire with the bat and go on a tear. Will he be healthy enough to do so? No information was provided on his injury during the game.
Cespedes, who won his second consecutive Home Run Derby title last week during All-Star festivities, had gone a career high-tying 25 games in a row without a homer. Then he drilled a 1-1 pitch from Brad Peacock (3-7***) well over the wall in straightaway center for a three-run shot in Oakland’s five-run second.
He followed with a two-run homer in the fifth, hitting another breaking ball well up the stairs over the left field wall.
The Astros scored five times and batted around in the top of the eighth to shave the A’s lead to two. But Sean Doolittle finished it off in the ninth.
Starting pitching report
Jesse Chavez (8-6) earned the victory but left after 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and allowed just two runs and four hits, but he ran his pitch count up to 101, prompting manager Bob Melvin to call on his bullpen in the sixth.
Ugliness …. no other way to describe things in that eighth inning. The Astros sent 10 men to the plate and racked up six hits and five runs against three A’s relievers. Jim Johnson, his name again being linked in trade rumors to the Miami Marlins, gave up hits to all four batters he faced to begin the rally. Dan Otero gave up a couple more hits and suddenly a 9-2 lead was 9-7. It took Luke Gregerson entering to get a strikeout of L.J. Hoes and a groundout from Jose Altuve to end the inning.
Closer Sean Doolittle, who had to think he was destined for the night off, wound up handling the ninth for his 15th save.
At the plate
Though Cespedes had gone 25 games without a homer, he is hitting .381 (8-for-21) since the All-Star break. He ended the first half in an 0-for-18 skid. Melvin commended his approach since the Home Run Derby.
It seemed he could perhaps have a monster night. But in the fifth, he got jammed on an inside pitch and hit a looper toward second. He twisted around awkwardly and never left the batter’s box. Trainers came out to check on Cespedes, who was shaking his thumb around but stayed in the game and made a couple plays defensively in the sixth.
In the field
Gentry replaced Cespedes and made two impressive sliding catches in the closing innings that helped keep the Astros at bay.
A crowd of 28,310 showed up. And if the sugar rush from Root Beer Float Day started wearing off, Cespedes’ power display provided another energy boost.
The A’s conclude their homestand with Thursday’s 12:35 p.m. contest. Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 3.27) takes the mound with Scott Feldman (4-7, 4.30) going for the Astros.