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Friday, March 30, 2012

Cespedes, Colon help A's bounce back


Staff writer

Before Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes arrived in MLB, his highlight video made the rounds, showing the outfielder hitting homers, lifting weights and, oddly enough, standing beside a pig roasting on a spit.

News photo
Power display: Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes smacks a two-run home run in the seventh inning off Mariners reliever Shawn Kelley on Thursday at Tokyo Dome. Oakland beat Seattle 4-1. AP

Baseball fans got to see the real thing on Thursday night, except this time, Seattle Mariners reliever Shawn Kelley was the one who got cooked.

Cespedes gave the Oakland Athletics the lead with a towering two-run home run in the seventh inning and teammate Josh Reddick added a solo shot in the next at-bat to back a strong outing from Bartolo Colon in Oakland's 4-1 win on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.

"It was a great trip for everybody," A's manager Bob Melvin said a day after Seattle won the series opener 3-1 in 11 innings. "Certainly a win at the end is terrific for us."

The main attraction of the series, Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, finished 0-for-4. He ended the two-game series 4-for-9 with an RBI.

Cespedes played in the top league in Cuba for eight years before defecting in 2011. He signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the A's in March.

He didn't perform particularly well in nine exhibition games, hitting .172, but was able to record his first MLB home run in his second career game.

"I get up early to go to the field and try to work on everything," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I know the baseball in Cuba is a little different than in the States. I know I have to make some adjustments, because I know how good pitchers are here in the major leagues."

Cespedes finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs, Reddick was 2-for-3, and Jonny Gomes, who had a solo homer in the eighth, was 1-for-4.

The day prior to the game, Colon said he was just going to do his best against Ichiro and the Mariners. He did that, and then some.

Colon retired the first 13 batters he faced, not allowing a runner to reach until Jesus Montero's single in the fifth inning.

"Fastballs and two-seamers was what I used most tonight," Colon said through Prieto. "I tried to go inside a lot with the two-seamer and I used the other pitches on the outside most of the time."

News photo
Good timing: Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki catches a flyball hit by Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki in the fifth inning of Thursday's game at Tokyo Dome. Oakland won the series finale 4-1. KYODO

At the age of 38 years, 310 days, Colon is the oldest pitcher to start a game for Oakland since Tim Candiotti, who was 41 years, 275 days old when he made his last start for the A's on June 2, 1999.

"That was one of the reasons that we brought him in, his veteran presence," Melvin said. "He's a perfect guy to pitch in a game like this. We lose last night in a tough game, and he goes out there and does his thing for us."

Colon didn't look very old in his first start with Oakland, throwing eight innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits and striking out six to earn the win.

One of his few mistakes was a 2-2 pitch to Justin Smoak in the seventh inning that the Seattle first baseman sent into the left field stands.

"I got a pitch out over the plate and was able to put a good swing on it," Smoak said.

Smoak's blast briefly gave the Mariners the lead, but it wasn't enough for starter Jason Vargas.

Vargas had a solid outing, but fell victim to the familiar problem of the Seattle offense failing to score behind him.

Last season only one American League pitcher had worse run support than Vargas, who had a run support average of 3.40. Vargas didn't get much help in this one either but did his part, allowing a pair of hits and striking out three in 6⅓ scoreless innings.

"He threw the ball very well tonight," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said of Vargas. "He was in control, mixed his pitches well, did a good job moving his fastball around and kept them off balance. He did a great job. He did everything you really want your starting pitcher to do."

It was not as good a night for the Seattle bullpen.

Relievers Shawn Kelley, who took the loss, George Sherrill and Steve Delabar each gave up home runs late in the game.

"The big ball really hurt us late in the game," Wedge said.



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