Cespedes' return lifts A's

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics knew they missed slugger Yoenis Cespedes while he was on the 15-day disabled list, nursing a sore left hand.

Cespedes reminded them just how much Sunday in his first game since April 12, hitting a game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and leading them to a 9-8 victory in 10 innings over the Baltimore Orioles.

"We need him," said A's outfielder Seth Smith, who hit a two-run shot in the seventh. "I've been in situations where good players have gone down before, but he's different. He's a different animal in this lineup. We need him in there. It was obvious today."

The A's went 4-10 while Cespedes was on the DL and had lost three straight to the Orioles. They appeared headed for their ninth loss in their past 10 games before Cespedes forced extra innings. With Derek Norris on first after a leadoff single, Cespedes pulled the A's even at 8-8, hammering reliever Brian Matusz's 1-2 changeup into the left-field seats with one out for his fourth home run of the season.

"I felt so happy," said Cespedes, who went 2-for-5. "My real goal is to try to stay healthy all year to help the team the most I can."

After reliever Jerry Blevins retired the Orioles one-two-three in the top of the 10th, the A's won it in bizarre fashion in the bottom of the inning, pushing the winning run across with a single, two sacrifice bunts and two throwing errors.

Eric Sogard lined a leadoff single off Pedro Strop and moved to second on Adam Rosales' sacrifice bunt with Strop throwing wildly to second. Then Coco Crisp bunted on his own, looking for a base hit. Third baseman Manny Machado fielded the bunt but threw wildly to third past J.J. Hardy and into left field for an error.

Sogard dove head first into third and stayed on the ground as the ball rolled away. With third base coach Mike Gallego waving him home and his teammates screaming for him to get up and run, Sogard got up and raced home to score the winning run.

"Going in head first, I couldn't really tell what was going on," Sogard said. "I was trying to read the crowd, whether I was safe or out. Sure enough I looked up at (Gallego) and he's waving me. I look up and see the ball rolling in the outfield. Decided to take off. I had a little breather there for a second, which was nice, because I needed it."

The Orioles had lost 16 of their past 19 games at Oakland before winning three of four this time. They had a chance to sweep a four-game series in Oakland for the first time since 1987 and just the second time in franchise history but settled for a series victory.

"Three out of four is good against anybody, especially at the start of a road trip," said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and his ninth home run of the season. "We have to be happy with the three wins. This is a tough place to play. I'm happy with the way we swung the bats."

Cespedes typically would have faced Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the ninth, but manager Buck Showalter said he needed to give Johnson a day off after he pitched in each of the previous two games. Johnson has converted 31 straight save opportunities.

The Orioles battered A's pitchers for 15 hits. Nate McLouth went 4-for-5 with a double, scored four times and stole a base. Machado went 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Adam Jones went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

Davis launched a solo home run into the right-field seats off A's reliever Sean Doolittle with one out in the top of the eighth, giving the Orioles a 7-6 lead. The Orioles added another run in the ninth off A's closer Grant Balfour as McLouth doubled and Machado doubled him home.

"I feel good about the way we played this whole series," Showalter said.

The A's had trailed 6-4 entering the bottom of the seventh. Considering the fact that the Orioles have won 102 straight games when leading after seven innings, the A's needed to catch up in a hurry. That's exactly what they did.

Crisp worked a leadoff walk against left-hander Troy Patton, and Smith crushed a one-out home run to center field, pulling the A's even.

"It had the feeling of the last week and a half or so where we've got down and gone away quietly, but it's amazing what a couple good at-bats can do for the team," Smith said. "Everyone kind of piled on after that."

Especially Cespedes in the bottom of the ninth, when he hit a low changeup off Matusz into the stands.

"I was ahead a little bit on that swing, but I hit it well and I knew it was gone," Cespedes said.

For Cespedes' teammates, it was just like old times, watching him come through in the clutch. The A's went 82-46 with him in the lineup last season and 12-22 when he didn't start.

"It's going to be an automatic lift because he's one of the best players on our team if not the best," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "He comes up in big situations and comes through a lot of the time. That's important. We've been kind of missing that a bit. We've had chances the last week or so for that big hit and haven't been able to come through, and he comes up in the bottom of the ninth and hits a homer, ties it up. He shows you the impact he has just by performing every day."

Orioles' right-hander Miguel Gonzalez blanked the A's for five innings before giving up four runs in the sixth. He allowed seven hits and four runs over 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking two.

A's right-hander Bartolo Colon came into the game with a 3-0 record and 2.89 ERA, but he gave up five runs -- four of those in the fourth -- on nine hits over six innings. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter.

Both starters were long gone when Cespedes delivered his big hit, and the A's went on to snap their four-game skid.

"Every hitter, every player's important to the team, but what happens with Cespedes when you put him in the lineup, is pitchers get scared," Colon said.

NOTES: A's left-hander Brett Anderson will skip his start Monday against the Angels to rest his sore right ankle, which he re-tweaked in his last start Wednesday at Boston, but he won't go on the disabled list, manager Bob Melvin said. ... Right-hander Dan Straily, who re-joined the team Sunday in Oakland from Triple-A Sacramento, will start Monday's game. Straily won't officially be recalled until Monday. At that time, the A's will have to make a corresponding roster move. He's 3-0 with an 0.96 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings with the River Cats. He went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA with the A's before being optioned to Sacramento on April 6. ... The Orioles placed backup catcher Taylor Teagarden on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, one day after he dislocated his left thumb in the bottom of the sixth inning against the A's. Showalter said he'll "have a better idea" how long Teagarden will be out after he's examined by a hand specialist in Florida. The Orioles called up catcher Luis Exposito from Triple-A Norfolk, and he was in uniform for Sunday's game. ... Orioles' left-hander Zach Britton will start Monday's game at Seattle, Showalter said. Britton was recalled Thursday from Norfolk but was not needed in relief during the A's series, making him available to start Monday. ... A's shortstop Jed Lowrie was a late scratch from the lineup because of a strained muscle on the right side of his neck. "He slept on it wrong," Melvin said. "He's having trouble turning his neck to the right." Adam Rosales took his place at shortstop. ... A's outfielder Casper Wells was designated for assignment to make room for Cespedes on the 25-man roster. If the A's don't trade him in the next 10 days and he clears waivers, they'll assign him to Triple-A Sacramento, Melvin said. "If he were to get through, we'd certainly love to have him. We value him."
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