What should have been a runaway win for the Oakland Athletics ended with questions and concerns.
Yoenis Cespedes homered twice and tied a career high with five RBIs before leaving with a sprained right thumb. Brandon Moss got a painful stinger to his left bicep, and reliever Jim Johnson had another meltdown on the mound as the A’s held off the Houston Astros 9-7 on Wednesday night.
Cespedes and Johnson left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters. And Moss said he should be fine after Jose Altuve ran through his tag at first base on a misfired throw.
But the aftershocks of the A’s latest win might still be felt at the Coliseum come Thursday.
Cespedes, the two-time reigning Home Run Derby champion, has had several hand and wrist injuries in his two-and-a-half years in the majors. A’s manager Bob Melvin said the slugger hurt his thumb when he fell following an awkward swing on a ground out in the fifth.
X-rays on Cespedes’ thumb were negative, Melvin said.
Cespedes showed just how valuable he is to the A’s by hitting a three-run drive in the second inning and a two-run shot in the fourth off Brad Peacock (3-7) for his 15th and 16th homers this season. He snapped a 25-game skid – matching his career high – since his last long ball June 19 against Boston.
Cespedes was replaced in left field with the A’s leading 8-1 in the seventh. But the Astros almost pulled off an improbable comeback, scoring five runs in the eighth before the back of Oakland’s bullpen shut them down.
Jesse Chavez (8-6) allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings to help the A’s (62-38) extend the best record in baseball. He struck out seven and walked two.
Johnson, who signed a $10 million, one-year deal with Oakland after saving 50 games for Baltimore last season, entered with the A’s leading 9-2 in the eighth. He gave up four runs – three earned – without recording an out to spark Houston’s five-run inning. He has a 6.92 ERA and left to a smattering of boos again.
“It’s tough, because you root for a guy like that,” said A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie, who hit his fifth homer. “He’s working really hard. Sometimes this game isn’t fair.”
Luke Gregerson stranded two runners on base in the eighth, and Sean Doolittle recorded his 15th save in 18 tries with a perfect ninth.
Chavez, who had not started since July 12 at Seattle before the All-Star break, looked sharp at the outset. He did not allow a hit until Matt Dominguez lined a single to left with one out in the fifth.
“I felt good. I think the fifth inning caught up to me a little bit,” Chavez said. “But overall, a good start to the second half.”
The A’s got all the support they needed in just three swings.
Lowrie led off Oakland’s second with a homer, and Cespedes busted the game open by sending a slider from Peacock over the wall in center. In the fourth, Cespedes pulled a curveball into the stands in left to put the A’s up 7-0.
It was Cespedes’ fifth career two-homer game and first since June 4 at the New York Yankees. It also was the third time he’s had five RBIs in a game – all this year.
Peacock, who was traded to Houston in February 2013 as part of the deal that landed Lowrie in Oakland, was charged with seven runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings.
“I have to find a way to slow myself down,” Peacock said. “I had one good inning. The bullpen did a great job of keeping it right there.”
NOTES: Athletics RF Josh Reddick had two hits and a walk in first start since coming off the disabled list. … Athletics INF Alberto Callaspo (right hamstring) could begin a rehab assignment in the next day or so and come off the disabled list Sunday. … The Astros placed rookie OF George Springer on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps and recalled outfielder Marc Krauss from Triple-A Oklahoma City. … The A’s said they raised $29,189 for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation during the team’s annual Root Beer Float Day, bringing the 15-year total to more than $414,000. … Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 3.27 ERA) takes the mound for Oakland against Scott Feldman (4-7, 4.30 ERA) and the Astros in Thursday’s series finale.
Updated July 24, 2014