OAKLAND, Calif. — Yoenis Cespedes’ timely hitting decided countless games at every level of baseball back home in Cuba.
Doing it at as a first-year major leaguer means so much to the young Oakland Athletics.
With two of the American League’s top pitching teams dueling it out for a third straight day, Kila Ka’aihue blooped a winning single in the 14th inning soon after Cespedes’ tying two-run homer, and the A’s rallied past the Chicago White Sox 5-4 on Wednesday.
“Yoenis is coming up in that situation and he’s grinding hard every pitch, every out,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “(It was) more perseverance than anything else, because it seemed like in the middle of the game nobody was going to score for a while.”
He was right. Both clubs missed chances and the game kept going.
Josh Reddick hit a one-out single in the 14th, then Cespedes delivered his fifth homer of the season against Hector Santiago (0-1) after Chicago took the lead in the top half of the 14th. Ka’aihue came through with the big hit in a game that lasted 3 hours, 56 minutes.
“You relish that, you look forward to it when you’re taking your BP and your work,” Ka’aihue said. “You prepare to get that big hit. You don’t work on grounding out and flying out. It wasn’t the hardest ball I’ve hit in my life. It won the game for the team, that’s all that counts.”
Jim Miller (1-0) struck out Brent Lillibridge for his first major league win after being called up earlier in the day.
Alexei Ramirez hit a go-ahead two-run double with two outs in the top of the 14th.
Paul Konerko hit his 400th career home run to tie the game at 2 in the Chicago ninth.
The round numbers, everybody likes the round numbers. When it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I’m done playing and look back, that’s when it might hit home more.
The game featured “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” twice, along with a 14th-inning stretch.
After a pair of gems from Chicago starters this trip — Phil Humber’s perfect game Saturday at Seattle, then Jake Peavy’s three-hit shutout Monday — this day became about the terrific White Sox bullpen until Oakland finally got to the relievers.
Konerko sent the first pitch from A’s closer Grant Balfour onto the left-field steps to start the ninth. Konerko became the fourth player in franchise history to reach the milestone 400 or 500 mark while wearing a White Sox uniform, joining Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Andruw Jones.
“Everybody likes the round numbers,” Konerko said. “When it comes to that kind of stuff, I think when I’m done playing and look back, that’s when it might hit home more. But when you’re in the middle of the grind and you’re grinding every day and working, you tend not to think about that stuff, and you probably shouldn’t.”
It looked as if the White Sox would take this one after scoring two unearned runs in the top of the 14th.
But Cespedes showed why the A’s gave him a $36 million, four-year contract.
“I was lucky enough to hit home runs to decide games. This was not the first time,” Cespedes said. “The team is a very young team, but the way we play together we’re going to get very far this season.”
Dayan Viciedo reached on third baseman Eric Sogard’s fielding error and Brent Morel sacrificed him to second. Eduardo Escobar flied out and Alejandro De Aza walked before Miller relieved Jerry Blevins to face Ramirez.
The A’s saved themselves in the 13th with a two pretty defensive plays. Catcher Kurt Suzuki caught pinch-runner Lillibridge well off second base, then shortstop Cliff Pennington chased down Alex Rios’ double that skipped into the Oakland bullpen and made a quick throw to Sogard, who then relayed to Suzuki just in time to get a sliding Gordon Beckham.
Konerko’s fourth homer of the year spoiled an impressive A’s debut by Jarrod Parker, who struck out five in 6 1-3 innings following his call-up from Triple-A Sacramento.
Home plate umpire Jerry Layne took a foul from Escobar off the left shoulder in the fifth and was briefly examined by the A’s training staff before staying in the game. Layne returned to the box and playfully grabbed Escobar’s bat and jokingly pretending to swing it.
NOTES: Already without LF Coco Crisp because of a lingering illness, the A’s had Luke Hughes set to start at 3B before he arrived at the ballpark with a 102-degree temperature and couldn’t play. … Teri McKeever, head swim coach at Cal and coach of this summer’s Olympic women’s team in London, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.