Cespedes Belts Two Homers, Helps A’s Outlast Astros 9-7

Following their 12-inning loss to the Astros Monday night, the A’s looked to give the weeknight crowd of a little over 28,300 fans something more to cheer about than just the root beer floats that were served pre-game in the East Side Club.

Jesse Chavez, pitching on 10 days rest, looked sharp through his 5.2 innings. He matched zeroes on the scoreboard with former A’s prospect Brad Peacock for the first inning, but the score did not remain tied for long. The A’s hung five runs on the Astros in the bottom half of the second inning, added on in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings and held their breath as they tried to outlast the Astros late comeback served up by another Jim Johnson implosion in the eighth inning.

At the end of play, Chavez was the winner, Peacock the loser and All Star closer Sean Doolittle had recorded his 15th save of the season.

Here’s how it all happened:

Jed Lowrie homered on the first pitch he saw for his fifth of the season to give the Athletics a 1-0 lead. Josh Reddick followed with a walk, Eric Sogard singled up the middle and Coco Crisp walked to load the bases for John Jaso, still with no one out in the inning. Jaso hit what looked like it was going to be a bases clearing double with Astros’ center fielder Enrique Hernandez playing shallow. Hernandez sprinted straight back and somehow caught up with the ball making an impressive catch for the first out, although Reddick was able to easily come home on the sacrifice fly.

Yoenis Cespedes snapped a 25-game homerless streak to bring home Sogard and Crisp and push the Oakland lead to 5-0.

Cespedes homered again in the fourth inning with Jaso, who had doubled one at bat before, on base to put the A’s up 7-0. This is the fifth time in his career that he has had a multi-homer game.

Meanwhile, Chavez just kept rolling on the mound for the A’s. Through four innings, the A’s converted reliever-turned-starter had faced just one batter over the minimum.  He allowed his first hit of the night with one out in the top of the fifth inning.

Chavez struggled in the fifth inning, allowing a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases with just one out. Marwin Gonzalez ended Chavez’s bid for a shutout when he grounded out for the second out of the inning, bringing home the Astros first run. Jose Altuve struck out to end the inning and Chavez escaped the jam having only given up the one run.

The A’s got the run back in the bottom of the fifth as Jaso singled home Reddick with two outs to push the lead back to seven runs at 8-1.

Houston tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs, ending Chavez’s night as he left to a standing ovation. In 5 2/3 innings, Chavez allowed two runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out seven Houston batters and improved his record to 8-6 while maintaining his 3.14 ERA.

Once again, the A’s got the run right back in the bottom of the seventh as Craig Gentry, in the game as a replacement for Cespedes, beat out a throw to first and avoid the double play, allowing Reddick to cross the plate for Oakland’s ninth run of the game.

Following a perfect inning and a third for Ryan Cook, Jim Johnson came in and immediately surrendered back-to-back singles to Altuve and Jason Castro and an RBI double to Chris Carter, with no outs, to make it 9-3. Mark Krauss did more damage, singling home Castro to make it 9-4, with Johnson having allowed two runs on four hits without recording an out.

That was all Bob Melvin needed to see as he turned to the bullpen again and brought in Dan Otero to mop up Johnson’s mess. Otero inherited runners on first and third with no outs.

Jon Singleton hit a ball to Donaldson who threw offline to second for a fielder’s choice and error, allowing Carter to score from third and making it a 9-5 game. Robbie Grossman singled to bring home Krauss and Enrique Hernandez singled to bring in Singleton pushing the score to 9-7 and also running Otero from the game.

Johnson wound up with four runs allowed (three earned) on four hits without recording an out. Otero pitched a third of an inning and allowed one run on two hits.

Luke Gregerson came in and recorded the final two outs to maintain the lead, now down to just 9-7.

Sean Doolittle entered the game for the ninth inning, looking to preserve the two-run lead and earn his 15th save of the season, moving him just two saves behind Alan Embree for the most saves by a lefty in A’s history (17 in 2007).

Doolittle, aided by a great catch from Gentry in left field, worked a quick 1-2-3 inning, striking out Jesus Guzman to end the game.

Speaking of Gentry, who as mentioned earlier replaced Cespedes…

Cespedes appeared to be hit on his right thumb during a swing that ultimately resulted in a ground out to Altuve at second to end the fifth inning. He stayed in the game, but was removed to start the seventh inning. He was seen headed towards the A’s clubhouse in the bottom half of the sixth inning and replaced by Gentry.

Johnson’s struggles could wind up seeing the A’s highest paid reliever designated for assignment by the time the A’s return home on July 31st. They’d prefer to trade him rather than just cut him and eat the remainder of his salary, but the way he has been pitching, cutting him is basically just addition by subtraction in that you can bring up a better pitcher to take his spot and no longer allow him to hurt you in the box-score.

Oakland entered play on Tuesday night in the midst of their 100th consecutive day in first place in the AL West – 96 days alone and four days in a tie. That stretch marks the 10th time the A’s have spent at least 100 days in first place in a season, and the first time since 2006. Remarkably, the A’s have also held the best record in the American League since May 31st, and the best record in all Major League Baseball since June 18th. The win helped them maintain their two game lead over the Angels, who also won Wednesday night.

The A’s have their fourth best record in franchise history after 100 games at 62-38. Only the 1971, 1975 and 1990 teams were better through 100 games, all with a 63-37 record.

Oakland is 3-2 on this current six-game homestand and will look to win the series tomorrow in a day game at the Coliseum. First pitch will be at 12:35 PM and it will be Jeff Samardzjia for Oakland against Scott Feldman for the Astros.