Yoenis Cespedes hopes to have some more pop in his bat for the second half of the season when the Oakland Athletics tangle with the LA Angels of Anaheim Friday in the opener of a three-game series at the Big A.
Cespedes became the newest champion of the Home Run Derby during All-Star Game festivities, belting 17 homers in the first round en route to a total of 32 in beating Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. The Cuban slugger was not a member of the AL All-Star roster, but captain Robinson Cano picked Cespedes to compete in the annual event.
"I feel very grateful to the people, Robinson Cano, who asked me to come here," Cespedes said Tuesday. "During the first round while I took my first five swings, I felt that I was really into a rhythm and felt that I could put on a show like I did tonight."
Cespedes hasn't homered since belting a pair at Seattle on June 21 and has 15 on the season to go along with 43 RBI and a .225 average. He has helped the Athletics to first place in the AL West -- two games ahead of Texas -- and Oakland entered the break having won seven of 10 games.
Oakland took two of three games versus the Boston Red Sox last weekend and recorded a 3-2 win in 11 innings on Sunday. Josh Donaldson hit a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh inning and stroked a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 11th.
"I really believe that the guys in this clubhouse really believe that we have one of the best teams in baseball," Donaldson said. "It's just one of those things, where when we get an opportunity to play a good team like the Red Sox or the Pirates or the Cardinals, we're out there sending a message that we are a good team, that we're for real."
In his 400th career appearance, A's starting pitcher Bartolo Colon allowed eight hits and two runs with four strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings for the no- decision. Ryan Cook threw two scoreless innings of relief for the win.
The Athletics, who will also visit Houston on their six-game road trip, look to A.J. Griffin to pitch the club to victory in Anaheim. Griffin has won two straight and three of four starts and tossed eight shutout innings in Saturday's 3-0 win over Boston. The win pushed his mark to 8-6 in 19 starts and lowered his earned run average to 3.68.
Griffin, a right-hander, beat the Angels on April 11 with eight innings of one-run ball in an 8-1 win and has won both of his career starts in this series with a sparkling 0.56 ERA through 16 innings.
The first half of the season didn't go as planned for the Angels, who find themselves 11 games off the pace in the AL West.
With the addition of Josh Hamilton to play alongside Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the Angels experienced their up and downs throughout the first half and entered the break with three straight losses and four in five tries. The Mariners swept the Halos at Safeco Field last weekend and broke out the brooms with Sunday's 4-3 setback.
Joe Blanton has been a thorn in the side of the Angels' rotation with a 2-12 mark and suffered the loss to Seattle, as he gave up all four runs in four innings. Blanton is now 1-5 in his last six decisions.
"Hopefully a nice All-Star break, a four-day refresher can get me back," Blanton said.
Alberto Callaspo drove in two runs, Howie Kendrick went 2-for-4 with a run scored and Erick Aybar recorded a pair of hits in defeat. Trout, a 2013 All- Star, had a hit and a run scored for the Angels. Trout doubled off New York Mets hurler Matt Harvey to start the All-Star Game and played into the seventh inning.
"I was up there looking for a fastball," said Trout, eventually stranded that inning. "Whether I was going to swing, that's another thing. I was looking for a pitch, I got it, didn't try to do too much and drove it to right field.
"I heard a lot of good stuff about his (Harvey's) secondary stuff, and I didn't want to get to it."
Taking the mound for the Halos Friday will be Jered Weaver. Weaver is having a down year, going 3-5 in just 11 starts with a 3.63 earned run average. He missed some time earlier this season because of a broken forearm and previously pitched in Saturday's 6-0 loss at Seattle, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Weaver had won back-to-back starts and will face the Athletics for the first time this season. In 24 career starts against them, the right-handed Weaver is 9-7 with a 2.36 ERA.
The Angels, who are slated to host Minnesota on their upcoming homestand, had dropped the first five matchups with Oakland this season and snapped the slide with a 5-4 win on May 1. The A's swept a three-game series in Anaheim from April 9-11.