OAKLAND, Calif. (MCT) — Even though he drove home the winning run with a bloop single in the bottom of the 14th inning, Kila Ka’aihue wasn’t foolish enough to take credit for delivering the Athletics’ thrilling 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday at the Coliseum.
Ka’aihue deferred to the real hero, Yoenis Cespedes, who took another large step in his rapid rise to stardom with a two-run home run that tied the score after the White Sox had scored two runs in the top of the 14th on an Alexei Ramirez’s double.
“After Cespedes tied it up, it just seemed like everything after that took care of itself,” Ka’aihue said. “Everybody else put together good at-bats, we pulled out the win, and it was awesome.”
If not awesome, then certainly unexpected. Oakland managed just two base runners from the seventh through 13th innings, but after a Josh Reddick one-out single in 14th, Cespedes’ homer off Chicago closer Hector Santiago was like striking oil. What ensued — consecutive singles by Seth Smith, Kurt Suzuki and Ka’aihue — amounted to the tapping of an offensive gusher.
Cespedes’ blast reversed a lot of ill fortune. Rookie Jarrod Parker made his first start for the A’s and pitched well enough to win, but closer Grant Balfour served up Paul Konerko’s 400th career homer on the first pitch of the ninth inning that negated a 2-1 edge.
The A’s also could have been heading out on a nine-game East Coast road trip after a long and dispiriting loss. Instead, they’ll hit the road at .500 — 10-10 — with the momentum of a two-game winning streak and five straight hits to finish their best win of the year.
In short, Oakland is learning quickly how their young Cuban import can impact any situation.
“He’s got all the tools,” Suzuki said of Cespedes. “He’s a game-changer, and he showed that today. He always has the opportunity to hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark. He’s a really good player, and the more he gets comfortable, the more you’re going to see Cespedes take off, because his talent is unquestionable.”
One thing Cespedes has done of late is learn how to protect with two strikes. He started the year horribly when he got two strikes against him — 1 for 22 — and a number of those at-bats ended in flailing strikeouts.
But against Santiago, he was prepared. Through an interpreter, Cespedes explained that he went to hitting coach Chili Davis to ask what the pitcher threw. Davis told him fastball, slider and changeup. On a 2-2 count, Cespedes got the changeup, and he mashed it into the left field seats for the biggest of his five homers.
“When he got to two strikes, I was only looking for something to make contact,” Cespedes said. “I was lucky I hit it far enough that it left the park.”
And within the next 10 minutes, the 3-hour, 56-minute marathon was over, with only a smattering of the 13,032 who initially came through the turnstiles still in attendance.
It was a sweet win for Oakland on other fronts, not the least of which was the performance of Parker, the key man in the offseason trade that sent Trevor Cahill to Arizona.
Parker, who couldn’t find home plate during spring training and consequently was left off the roster at the season’s start, looked like a different guy in his first start for the A’s and just his second in the majors. He didn’t walk a batter until two were out in the fifth inning, and it turned out to be his only one in 6?1/3 innings of work. He allowed seven hits, one run and struck out five.
He not only demonstrated that he’s ironed out whatever plagued him in spring, but he beat the White Sox, the team he grew up rooting for.
“I was excited to throw against those guys, and obviously a win just puts icing on the cake.” Parker said. “Early on, I was rushing a little bit, but after I got out of a jam in the second (second and third, one out), I just settled in and followed Zuke (Suzuki). I didn’t shake him off once, so that made it a lot easier.”
There is no denying Parker has the stuff — a fastball that runs in the low- to mid-90s to go with an effective change. When he gets them over, the 23-year-old right-hander has more than enough in his arsenal to get out major league hitters. So how did he solve his mechanical problems while at Triple-A Sacramento?
“It was something that we saw on video and basically were able to take care of it pretty quickly,” he said. “We just tried to build on it with each start.”
The A’s seventh pitcher, right-hander Jim Miller, earned his first major league win, even though he gave up the two-run double by Ramirez that put Chicago ahead 4-2 in the 14th. Miller was called up along with Parker on Wednesday.
Before the game, the A’s optioned reliever Fautino de los Santos to Sacramento and designated right-handed pitcher Rich Thompson for assignment to make room for Parker and Miller. Thompson, one of three Australians on Oakland’s roster, made just one appearance with the club and pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning. Manager Bob Melvin said Thompson was the victim of a numbers game and he was out of options. Miller was preferable because he can pitch more innings out of the bullpen and serve as a long reliever.
The A’s were without outfielder Coco Crisp, who has appeared in just one of the A’s past eight games. Crisp is still fighting flu and inner ear issues, but Melvin is hoping for Crisp’s return to start Oakland’s nine-game road trip beginning in Baltimore on Friday.
New third base acquisition Luke Hughes developed a 102-degree fever and had to be scratched from the starting lineup. Hughes was 0 for 6 with three errors in his first two games with Oakland.