Sunday, August 10, 2014
Cespedes kickstarts stagnant Sox with blast
By Gordon Edes
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There is a reward that comes with hitting your first home run for the Red Sox, as Yoenis Cespedes and whoever came within 50 feet of him learned Sunday afternoon.
Not once, but twice David Ortiz leaned into the circle of reporters clustered around the chiseled Cuban and sprayed him liberally from his bottle of Bond No. 9. It was a christening of luxury cologne not even the most olfactory challenged could miss.
On the Red Sox, as mandated by Ortiz, you slug like a man, you smell like a man. And the rest of us can’t help but take notice of both.
Cespedes, who had not homered since July 26, a span of two weeks and 51 at-bats, launched a three-run home run off Angels reliever Joe Smith in the top of the eighth that allowed the Sox to withstand Mike Trout’s counterpunch in the bottom of the inning, a solo home run, and win the rubber game of this series against the Los Angeles Angels, 3-1.
The home run by Cespedes, his 18th of the season, came off a familiar adversary, the side-arming Smith, who entered the game with 23 straight scoreless appearances but might want to alter his approach against Cespedes.
In 11 plate appearances against Smith, Cespedes has a home run, triple, three singles and a walk.
Yoenis Cespedes showed the difference-making swing the Red Sox were hoping for when they swapped Jon Lester for him on July 31.
“I’ve been facing him for a long time, ever since he was with Cleveland,’’ Cespedes said through a translator, “and ever since then he’s been starting me off with a sinker, and then follows it up with a slider. When I saw the first sinker, I knew he was going to come with the slider, or at least I thought he was, and I was able to capitalize on it.’’
Smith, asked to quantify how badly he missed with his slider, said: “A lot. About 428 feet.’’
The Angels’ loss did not cause them to lose ground to the Athletics in the AL West, Oakland also losing to snap a three-game winning streak and remain four games ahead of the Halos. A reporter erroneously asked Cespedes if the Angels should be happy to see the last of him this season. Los Angeles comes to Fenway for a four-game set starting Aug. 18.
“I actually have thrown out five of their base-runners this year,’’ Cespedes said. “I think they’ll be happy to see me go.’’
That includes not only the throw that ranks as one of the season’s top highlights, Cespedes cutting down Howie Kendricks with a throw from the left-field corner that arrived on the fly at home plate, but a game in which Cespedes threw out two runners at the plate in the same inning.
Asked if he was happy to assist his old team in their race against the Angels, Cespedes responded: “Of course.” But he had a pointed answer when someone asked if he closely follows the Athletics.
“No,’’ he said. “I just follow this team.’’
To Sox catcher Daniel Butler, who was making his big-league debut, it looked from the dugout as if Cespedes hit the ball over the left-field fence with one hand. No, Cespedes said, that didn’t happen. But Ortiz had an answer ready when someone asked if Cespedes thought he’d hit the pitch well enough to leave the premises.
“You couldn’t enjoy it,’’ Ortiz said to Cespedes’s inquisitor. “It went out too fast.’’
Cespedes has hit just four home runs in his last 40 games. Since taking Jake Peavy deep in a June 19 game against the Sox in Oakland, Cespedes went 25 games without a home run before connecting twice against Brad Peacock of the Astros, then three nights later homered off Nick Tepesch of the Rangers.
“It doesn’t bother me or make me worry,’’ he said about going prolonged periods without a home run. “There have been a couple of periods this season where there has been a drought in terms of home runs. I’m just trying to put good swings on the ball, and everything will work out.’’
It worked out for Sox manager John Farrell that on a day he gave Ortiz a breather after Saturday night’s 19-inning defeat, Cespedes supplied power that has only intermittently surfaced unless furnished by Ortiz. The Sox have two home runs in the first six games of this trip, the other by Mike Napoli here Friday night.