For all the excitement surrounding Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning home run Sunday, it should be noted that Cespedes initially got the A’s offense going with his legs, not his bat.
As Oakland mounted its third comeback win in as many days against the Royals, it was Cespedes’ all-out base running that allowed the A’s to get on the board in fourth inning. Kansas City already led 2-0. But after leading off the inning with a bloop single, Cespedes went from first to third on a single by Brandon Moss with as much intensity as you’re ever going to see on a take of 180 feet.
Moss smashed a hard chopper through the hole into right field, but the ball was hit so hard, Cespedes had to stutter-step around it to avoid having it hit him. Despite his late break for second, Cespedes accelerated quickly, and found another gear as he turned and burned around the bag at second, never hesitating as he sprinted towards third.
Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur is renowned for having one of the best outfield throwing arms in the game, but Cespedes’ speed, agility, and intensity proved equally as impressive. And a slightly imperfect throw from Francoeur was all the window Cespedes needed to dart safely into third with a feet-first slide.
Not a bad effort for Cespedes, who may just lead the league in slowest walks from the on-deck circle to home plate prior to his at bats. His approach was so exaggerated in the final two games of the Royals series, both opposing starters – Ervin Santana and Luis Mendoza – had moments when they had to step off the mound during Cespedes’ antics.
But the Cuban sensation proved the hero Sunday. After crossing the plate with the A’s first run on Josh Donaldson’s sacrifice fly in the fourth, Cespedes later walloped a majestic home run to left-center off Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera to give the A’s a 4-3 lead, which held up for the win.
“He has a flair for that, there’s no question,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve seen him do late-inning stuff. Guy is throwing a hundred miles an hour – really didn’t need to do anything mechanically to try to catch up with it. Just saw it and hit it.”
With the win, the A’s not only rise above the .500 mark with a 23-22 record, but also in one-run victories. With three straight one-run wins to sweep the Royals, the A’s are now 8-6 on the season in one-run games.
“Personally, I’d rather see us win by 10 runs,” Melvin said. “But the fans get a kick out of it. We have a little bit of a flair for the dramatic in close games here at home. It makes for a little bit more excitement. Certainly for the fans, and for us too.”