ANAHEIM (AP) – Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes is adjusting to life in America and the big leagues on a daily basis.
The 26-year-old center fielder had two hits Tuesday night, including a two-run single during a four-run eighth inning rally that carried the A’s to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Cespedes had nine RBIs in his first 11 games despite a .246 average.
“He’s making progress everywhere, and he works very hard at it,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s working on his English, he’s working on his dialogue with teammates, and it seems like each and every day he’s more comfortable. He has more to deal with off the field than on the field, and we haven’t lost sight of that.
“Being dropped into this situation, the spotlight has been on him from the very beginning. There’s a lot of ‘firsts’ he’s having to go through, but I think his progress to this point has been terrific.”
Daric Barton ended a career-worst homerless drought of 76 games with a solo shot against Dan Haren and Josh Reddick doubled home the go-ahead run.
The Athletics got a one-out single from Cespedes and a two-out bunt hit from Kurt Suzuki in the seventh before Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in left-hander Scott Downs to face the left-swinging Barton – leaving Haren with an 85-pitch outing and a bewildered look on his face.
“I wouldn’t have thrown him the same pitch again, that’s for sure,” Haren said. “He hasn’t hit for much power over his career, and that’s one spot where down-and-in is probably where his punch is. I’ve never really had too much trouble with him over the years, so obviously, the competitor in me wanted to face him again. But you could put two and two together.”
The move turned out perfectly, as Barton took a called third strike at the knees. But Kevin Jepsen (0-1) gave up a pair of one-out walks, Coco Crisp’s tying RBI single and Reddick’s ground-rule double, putting Oakland ahead 3-2. Cespedes greeted David Carpenter with a two-run single to cap the rally.
“When I first saw him, the guy I likened him to and first guy that came to mind was Raul Mondesi. He’s a stocky kid who runs well and throws well,” Melvin said. “Maybe that’s the type of player he aspires to become, with those kind of numbers. He’s a unique talent, and he’s a threat every time he’s at the plate. He’s a tough kid, a tenacious kid, and he doesn’t get down on himself. He’s a bit of a bull in a china shop. I mean, he doesn’t know anything but max effort.”
Brian Fuentes (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the victory and Grant Balfour got his third save in as many attempts despite giving up a one-out homer in the ninth by Vernon Wells.
Haren allowed five hits and no walks in 6 2-3 innings after failing to get through six in either of his first two starts. The only run against the three-time All-Star right-hander came in the fifth on Barton’s homer.
“I know I’m not going to hit 20 or 30 home runs a year,” said Barton, who has 27 in 1,495 big league at-bats. “There’s been one or two in my career when I knew they were, but I just don’t hit them far enough. Most of the time they’re line drives and wall-scrapers. I think of myself as a line-drive hitter. I had the feeling this one was gone, but I didn’t want to take anything for granted.”
Barton, who began the season on the disabled list because of a right shoulder strain, hit his first home run since Oct. 1, 2010, when he hit two against Seattle’s Luke French at Safeco Field.
Albert Pujols’ season-opening home run drought reached 11 games and 45 at-bats. The only other time in his 12-year career that the three-time NL MVP went more than five games before hitting his first homer was 2009, when it took Pujols nine games and 28 at-bats to do it.
Oakland’s Tyson Ross allowed two runs, seven hits and no walks over six innings and struck out three in his season debut after getting recalled from the minors. The right-hander, who turns 25 years old on Sunday, got his chance with the Athletics in need of a fifth starter for the first time season.
“It’s nice to get that first one under your belt,” Ross said. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there every fifth day, and learning from the talented people on this staff. Tonight I gave the team a chance to win, and that’s the goal every time out. I did a good job of throwing strikes and getting ground balls.”