OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes has been playing in the big leagues for less than a season and a half, but his eight years' worth of experience playing in Cuba helped engineer the A's 4-3 win Sunday over Kansas City, completing a three-game sweep of the Royals.
Cespedes, who had a single earlier in the game and scored Oakland's first run, said he feels like it might be time for him to heat up. It may well be. He came into the game with just four hits in his last 38 at-bats and an overall batting average of .198.
After fouling out on the first pitch of his first at-bat, Cespedes thought back to his time in Cuba and laid off the first pitch in his next three at-bats. In the process, he helped turn he game around.
"In Cuba, they told me that if I swung at the first pitch, I had a 90 percent chance to be out," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "So I looked at some pitches."
He was particularly discerning in the eighth facing Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera. Cespedes looked at ball one, then lined the second pitch over the left field wall to give the A's their first lead of the day.
And with Ryan Cook wiggling out of the ninth inning to get his first save of the year, the A's are back over .500 at 23-22 heading into their first road series against the A.L. West-leading Texas Rangers, starting Monday.
"Cespedes is a big part of our lineup," center fielder Coco Crisp said. Although he, like Cespedes, has been struggling, Crisp drove in the game-tying run in the seventh with a sacrifice fly.
The fact is that most of the A's have been struggling this month. In a 16-12 April, Oakland hitters put together a .253 average with 28 homers and an on-base percentage of .344. A 7-10 May has seen the numbers fall to .219, 15 and .292. The May home runs and on-base percentage are next-to-last in the American League.
If Cespedes is going to heat up, however, he probably won't be alone.
"He's one of those hitters who makes everyone around him better," manager Bob Melvin said of Cespedes. "When he is swinging well, he will take the pressure off of everyone around him. He and Coco are key for us."
The day didn't start particularly well for the A's with the offense struggling and starting pitcher A.J. Griffin far from at his best.
Griffin takes pride in avoiding walks, but on this sunny Coliseum afternoon, he walked three. Two of them came around to score.
Still, when he left the game after six innings, the A's were down only 3-2 "and I had all the faith in the world that the guys would get the job done," Griffin said.
"We're a very big team-oriented team," he went on, "When we do that, good things happen."
Good things sometimes require some luck. The A's got that in the seventh when catcher Derek Norris shot a single up the middle. Center fielder David Lough seemed to hesitate briefly on the ball, which then skipped past him. While Lough was racing to the fence, Norris had to go from running to running hard. He wound up at third base.
"I was about as surprised as one man could be," Norris said of the error on Lough. "When I saw that, I knew I had to put it into gear."
Bruce Chen relieved starter Luis Mendoza and retired Adam Rosales before Crisp, who went 1-for-10 in the series and is now sitting at .259, clubbed a ball deep enough to left field to bring the tying run home. Suddenly the game was tied, and for the third consecutive game, the A's were in position to pull out a late one-run win.
Now it's on to Texas with a truckload of momentum, if you believe in such things.
"I believe in momentum," Melvin said.
A's (Bartolo Colon 3-2) at Texas (Josh Lindblom 0-0), 5:05 p.m., CSNCA