OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After watching catcher Chris Iannetta get thrown out at the plate, Cole Kalhoun thought he could beat left fielder Yoenis Cespedes’ next heave home.
He was wrong.
The Angels had no answer for Cespedes on Saturday night.
Cespedes finished a single shy of the cycle and threw out two runners at the plate, powering the Oakland Athletics past the Los Angeles Angels 11-3 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 35,067.
“Knew it was going to be bang-bang and he’s got a great arm,” Calhoun said. “I thought I had a good jump. I thought it’d be closer than what it was, but that was a great play by him.”
On a night the Angels missed wasted opportunities to score, Cespedes made quite a lot of great plays.
The reigning Home Run Derby champion doubled in the fourth, hit a triple in the seventh that scored the go-ahead runs and added a three-run homer in the eighth. He matched a career high with five RBIs to help the two-time defending AL West champions stretch their lead to 3 1/2 games over the Angels in the division.
“I got a lot of motivation when I see the field like that,” Cespedes said through an interpreter in Spanish. “The stands are full, the same thing when we were in the playoffs. It was sold out and they made me feel like a stronger mind and gave me a lot of motivation.”
Collin Cowgill’s three-run homer off Tommy Milone in the fourth accounted for all of the Angels’ runs. The A’s tagged Tyler Skaggs (4-3) with four runs and five hits in six-plus innings.
Fernando Rodriguez (1-0) tossed one scoreless inning for the win.
Milone allowed nine hits in six innings, striking out three and walking one. He labored most of the way – including escaping a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the first – but got a big boost from his strong-armed, green glove-wearing left fielder on nearly identical plays in the second inning.
Cespedes charged in and heaved a one-hop strike to catcher Derek Norris to nab Iannetta and Calhoun after line-drive singles. The throws sent fans roaring to their feet each time, and Cespedes received high-fives and head-pats from teammates and coaches in the dugout.
“He had a career night. I’m lucky that it was today,” Milone said.
Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth upheld the first call after a 2-minute, 30-second review to see if Norris illegally blocked the plate under the new collision rule. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Iannetta didn’t have a lane to slide and the rule needs to be more clearly defined.
There was no review or challenge on the second throw to get Calhoun. And Scioscia conceded that regardless of the call, Cespedes was on target.
“Cespedes came up right on the money,” he said.
Cespedes came back big time with the bat. He doubled with one out in the fourth for Oakland’s first hit, and Norris drove in a run on a flyout for Oakland’s first run.
After Kyle Blanks’ solo homer and Josh Donaldson’s RBI groundout tied the score in the seventh, Cespedes’ drive off reliever Joe Smith landed just over Calhoun’s glove in right to score the go-ahead runs.
“He got me,” Smith said. “It stinks, man. That lost the game. After that inning, everything started going awry. Two outs, everything goes downhill and it just kept rolling that way and it turns into a horrible loss when it was a great, tight ballgame.”
Cespedes later lined a three-run shot in Jarrett Grube’s major-league debut in the eighth. It was Cespedes’ 10th home run this season. He also had five RBIs at Cleveland on May 18.
NOTES: Angels All-Star CF Mike Trout was scratched from the lineup because of upper back stiffness. He was initially the designated hitter. … The Angels designated LHP Wade LeBlanc for assignment and called up Grube from Triple-A Salt Lake. … The A’s honored the 1974 World Series championship team before the game. Three World Series MVPs – Gene Tenace (’72), Reggie Jackson (’73) and Rollie Fingers (’74) – threw out ceremonial first pitches. … Angels ace Jered Weaver (6-3, 2.99 ERA) starts against Oakland’s Sonny Gray (5-1, 2.31) in Sunday’s series finale.