Yoenis Cespedes assured the Boston Red Sox of one thing Sunday: They acquired a game-changer when they shipped Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics before the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline.
Cespedes clubbed his first home run in a Red Sox uniform — a three-run shot — in the eighth inning of Boston’s 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. The blast came at a perfect time for the Red Sox, who have struggled to produce clutch hits all season.
“He’s still getting his feet on the ground with us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “But anytime you can add a middle-of-the-order presence, as we’ve been able to do and in an area we needed to address — the ability to drive the baseball a little more consistently — he’s going to fit in just fine with us.”
The Red Sox and Angels received quality starting pitching Sunday, as Rubby De La Rosa and Hector Santiago went toe-to-toe one day after the teams played 19 innings. It became clear in the middle frames that one timely hit could be the difference, and Cespedes’ opportunity to provide such a knock presented itself in the top of the eighth inning.
Brock Holt reached with one out on an error by first baseman Efren Navarro. Dustin Pedroia, who is heating up at the dish, followed with a single into left field. Cespedes wasted little time in breaking the scoreless tie, ripping a missile over the fence on an 0-1 offering from high-priced reliever Joe Smith — whom Cespedes absolutely owns — to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
“I’ve been facing him for a long time, since he was back in Cleveland,” Cespedes told reporters in Anaheim. “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 thought he was coming with the slider and I was able to capitalize on it.”
Mike Trout answered with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, but it wasn’t enough. Cespedes’ dinger held up as the difference. The Red Sox only hit .141 as a team in their three-game series against the Angels, but they won two games, with Cespedes producing a key hit in each.
Cespedes has reached base in all eight of his games since joining the Red Sox, and while it hasn’t translated into huge results, there have been flashes that the 3-4-5 trio of David Ortiz, Cespedes and Mike Napoli could develop into a force when all three are in the lineup together. That certainly bodes well for 2015, when the Red Sox hope to return to contender status.