OAKLAND – Surely when A’s officials first decided to make a run at signing Yoenis Cespedes, they envisioned him doing a lot of special things on the baseball diamond.
On Saturday night, Cespedes packaged all of his immense skills together and put them on display in Oakland’s 11-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
The arm? The Angels learned all about in the span of three batters, as Cespedes threw out two runners at home in the second inning, saving starting pitcher Tommy Milone from potential disaster.
His bat? Cespedes came in struggling over the past two weeks, only to break out for a five-RBI night and come up just a single short of the cycle. He even put his speed to use, turning on the jets on his two-run triple in the seventh that put the A’s ahead for good.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Cespedes, A's rally to beat AL rival Angels]
“We know that that's what he's capable of,” Milone said afterward. “It's not surprising. I'm sure it's not surprising to anybody. We know that he's capable of doing that any day. It was just one of those days where he was feeling it.”
Cespedes has definitely shown individual components of his game in flashes over his two-plus seasons in green and gold. Never before had he put it all together in such a manner in one Major League game.
His effort spearheaded the A’s furious comeback victory that no one could have seen coming through the first six innings. They collected just two hits off left-hander Tyler Skaggs through six innings. Then … boom. A six-run avalanche in the seventh, most of it coming off sidearm reliever Joe Smith, whom the Angels signed in the offseason to bring stability to their bullpen, not the chaos that ensued Saturday.
The A’s sent 10 men to the plate that inning, the second game in a row they’ve batted around against the team chasing them in the American League West.
“That’s what’s great about this lineup and this team,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “A guy’s got us where he wants us. Then we keep grinding, keep grinding and they start making some mistakes and guys start taking advantage of it up and down the lineup.”
The A’s will go for the three-game sweep Sunday, but with first baseman Brandon Moss already out with what appears to be a short-term calf injury, right fielder Josh Reddick fell victim to injury Saturday. Coco Crisp pinch-hit for Reddick in the seventh after Reddick hyper-extended his knee while banging into the outfield wall making a catch to end the top of the sixth.
His condition for Sunday is unknown, but should Reddick not be available, it cuts into the A’s depth as Moss also sees occasional time in right field.
However, watching Cespedes take over the game and captivate a sellout crowd the way he did makes you wonder if there could be more of that in store in the future. The A’s certainly hope so. After a promising rookie season of 2012, Cespedes’ sophomore season of 2013 was underwhelming across the board.
He entered Saturday hitting just .236, but this was no ordinary night. The stands were packed for the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1974 World Series championship. There was electricity in the air. That’s when Cespedes tends to be his best.
“He had been struggling,” Melvin said. “… (But) when we needed it , he steps up. All the festivities, eveything going on before. The fans are out in full force doing their thing, and all of a sudden he becomes a different player.”
“I got a lot of motivation when I see the stands full, the same thing (like it) was in the playoffs,” Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “They gave me a lot of motivation to do the best I can for the team.”
Of course, the run-of-the-mill game at the Coliseum doesn’t provide so much electricity. And there are lots of run-of-the-mill nights over an 81-game home schedule.
The A’s will take just a slice of what Cespedes offered Saturday on a more regular basis. And that in itself would provide quite the boost.