OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes suddenly broke out in a big way Wednesday night, but just as quickly went down with a thumb injury that could prevent him from sustaining it.

Homerless over 25 games and 102 at-bats dating back to June 19, Cespedes slammed home runs in back-to-back at-bats and drove in five runs as the A's held on to beat the Houston Astros 9-7 after getting leads of 7-0 and 9-2.

Cespedes hit a three-run shot to center field in the second inning and a two-run bomb to left in the fourth as Oakland pummeled Brad Peacock (3-7), their one-time farmhand, for seven runs over the first 32/3 innings. Cespedes also hit one to the left field wall for an out in his first inning at-bat.

But in his fourth plate appearance against Astros reliever Jake Buchanan in the fifth, Cespedes spun around in the batter's box trying to avoid an inside pitch. The ball hit off his bat to second base, and the left fielder landed awkwardly on his right hand.

Cespedes flexed his hand and thumb several times, but he took his place in the field for the top of the sixth. However, he was replaced by Craig Gentry to start the seventh inning.

"Sprained thumb, X-rays negative," manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll see (how serious it is)."

Cespedes dressed quickly and left the clubhouse, declining to speak to the media. Cespedes' usual interpreter, Ariel Prieto, said it's likely he didn't want to speak because he doesn't like talking about injuries.


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Adding to the news on Cespedes, beleaguered Jim Johnson was called on to give Oakland's key late-inning relievers a break with a 9-2 lead in the eighth. Melvin wanted Johnson to pitch the last two innings after being the only reliever not to pitch in Tuesday's 12-inning 3-2 loss.

But Johnson's nightmare continued. He allowed hits to the first four batters he faced -- on just 11 pitches -- and all four runners scored, as did a fifth against Johnson's replacement Dan Otero, who also gave up two hits.

Suddenly, Houston trailed 9-7 with runners at first and third with only one out in the eighth. But Luke Gregerson restored order, striking out L.J. Hoes and retiring Jose Altuve on a grounder to short, and Sean Doolittle mowed down the Astros in the ninth for his 15th save. It preserved a win for Jesse Chavez (8-6), who worked the first 52/3 innings.

It was not an ending Melvin was hoping for, however. Melvin once again had to answer questions about Johnson's struggles.

"It is what it is. He's having a tough time," Melvin said of Johnson (6.92 ERA). "The ones he gets over the middle of the plate get hit hard, and when he gets 0-2, he gives up a bloop. He threw some pretty good changeups. He's just not getting any outs at this point."

Cespedes going deep for his 15th and 16th homers of the season was a welcome sight for the A's, who for over a month have only seen their left fielder go deep against his designated pitcher, third base coach Mike Gallego, in winning the All-Star Home Run Derby for the second straight year.

Moreover, besides what he did at Target Field in Minneapolis, Cespedes had been having a rough July before this big breakout -- 9 for 62 (.145) and just a single run driven in. But he's been having better at-bats of late, Melvin said.

"He's been real diligent in batting practice, staying up the middle and going the other way," he said. "He's aware when he may try to do a little bit too much to the pull side instead of using the whole field."

John Jaso had three hits and a sacrifice fly and drove in two runs, while Jed Lowrie hit his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot in the second, to give Chavez more early offensive support.

Chavez, who hadn't pitched since July 12, seemed to benefit from the extended layoff. He didn't allow a hit until Matt Dominguez's one-out single to left in the top of the fifth, and his pitches had considerable life -- he struck out seven in his 52/3 innings, including hard-to-fan All-Star Altuve twice.

"I feel like it was a good first step for the second half," Chavez said. "I think my pitches were a little bit crisper. I felt fine, felt great."

A's first baseman Brandon Moss injured his left arm making a swipe tag on Altuve in the eighth inning, but after being checked out by a trainer, he remained in the game, and afterward said he felt fine.

  • Barring a setback, infielder Alberto Callaspo (hamstring) will be sent out on a brief rehab assignment and the A's hope to activate him from the disabled list when he is eligible to come off on Sunday.

  • The A's raised $29,189 for their 15th Root Beer Float Day to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. The event has raised more than $414,000 for JDRF.

  • The Astros put rookie outfielder George Springer (strained quadriceps) on the 15-day D.L.

    THURSDAY'S GAME
    Houston (Scott Feldman 4-7)
    at A's (Jeff Samardzija 3-8),
    12:35 p.m., no TV

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