OAKLAND, Calif.--If Mike Gallego can't make it to next year's All-Star game Home Run Derby, Yoenis Cespedes might consider inviting Houston's Brad Peacock to throw to him if he elects to defend his title.
Homerless over 25 games and 102 at-bats dating back to June 19, Cespedes found Peacock's pitches much to his fancy Wednesday night, slamming home runs in back-to-back at-bats and driving in five runs as the Oakland A's beat the Astros 9-7.
Cespedes hit a three-run shot to center field in the second inning and a two-run bomb to left in the fourth as Oakland pummeled Peacock (3-7), their one-time farmhand, for seven runs over the first 32/3 innings. Cespedes also hit one to the left field wall for an out in his first inning at-bat.
Cespedes going deep for the 15th and 16th time this season was a welcome sight for the A's, who for more than a month have only seen their left fielder go deep in the All-Star Derby against his designated batting practice pitcher, third base coach Gallego, while winning that event for the second straight year.
The game looked to be a laugher until the A's decided to give beleaguered reliever Jim Johnson some work with a 9-2 lead in the eighth. But Johnson's nightmare continued. He gave hits to the first four batters he faced--on just 11 pitches--and all four runners scored, as did a fifth against Johnson's replacement Dan Otero, who also gave up two hits.
Suddenly, Houston had the tying runs at first and third with only one out, but Luke Gregerson finally restored order by striking out L.J. Hoes and retiring Jose Altuve on a grounder to short, and Sean Doolittle worked a scoreless ninth against the persistent Astros for his 15th save. It preserved a victory for Jesse Chavez (8-6), who worked the first 5?2/3 innings.
The victory preserved the A's two-game lead in the American League West after the Angels had beaten the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the evening.
Moreover, besides what he did at Target Field in Minneapolis, Cespedes had been having a very rough July before this big breakout -- 9 for 62 (.145) and just a single run driven in.
Cespedes might have had an even bigger night before the Coliseum crowd of 28,310, but in his fourth plate appearance against Astros reliever Jake Buchanan in the fifth, he spun around and fell in the batter's box trying to avoid an inside pitch and landed awkwardly on his right hand.
Cespedes flexed his hand and thumb several times, but took his place in the outfield for the top of the sixth. However, he was replaced by Craig Gentry to start the seventh inning. It was not known if he had suffered an injury or was simply being removed for precautionary reasons with the game outcome fairly well in hand at the time.
John Jaso had three hits and a sacrifice fly and drove in a pair of runs while Jed Lowrie hit his fifth home run, a solo shot in the second, to give added offensive support for A's starter Jesse Chavez.
Chavez, who hadn't pitched since July 12, seemed to benefit from the extended layoff. He didn't allow a hit until Matt Dominguez's one-out single to left in the top of the fifth, and his pitches had considerable life--he struck out seven in his 52/3 innings, including hard-to-fan Astros second baseman Jose Altuve twice.
After a tough 12-inning 3-2 loss to Houston on Tuesday, the A's seemed intent on putting this game away early. They loaded the bases without scoring in the first but broke things open with five runs in the second. Lowrie opened the inning with a high shot down the right field the line that cleared the wall, and Peacock subsequently loaded the bases by walking Josh Reddick, surrendering a single to Eric Sogard and walking Coco Crisp.
Jaso hit an out to deep center to score the second run, and Cespedes then unloaded on a 1-1 Peacock offering and sent it sailing over the center field fence.
Jaso doubled in the fourth preceding Cespedes' second blast, and then drove in Reddick in the fifth with a single.
Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss appeared to have injured his left hand making a swipe tag on Altuve in the eighth inning, but after being checked out by a trainer, he remained in the game.
--Barring a setback, infielder Alberto Callaspo (hamstring) will be sent out on a brief rehab assignment and the A's hope to activate him from the 15-day disabled list when he is eligible to come off on Sunday.
First baseman Kyle Blanks (calf) is also making progress but still isn't running full speed.
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