OAKLAND When Yoenis Cespedes was pulled out of Thursday's game in Anaheim with another painful sprain of his right wrist, it looked like he might miss some significant time in the A's playoff stretch drive.
But Cespedes not only was in the lineup Friday night for a crucial weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles. He played left field and struck one of the key blows a two-run home run in the fourth inning that helped propel the A's to a 3-2 victory before an announced sellout crowd of 35,067 at the Coliseum.
Cespedes was injured sliding into second base during a 6-0 loss to the Angels. He left the game in the top of the fifth inning, and admitted Friday that when he exited, "it hurt a lot." But the wrist improved dramatically overnight, and when he arrived at the ballpark during the afternoon, he was just a little sore.
"I'm not 100 percent," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "But I'm going to be in the lineup every day. I can rest after we win a championship."
The A's and Orioles, both striving to end long postseason droughts, played a game that had all the back-and-forth grist of a playoff game. The A's turned double plays in four consecutive innings the fourth through the seventh to quell Baltimore rallies.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the top of the third, but Cespedes gave Oakland a 2-1 advantage with his two-run blast against Baltimore starter Joe Saunders after Johnny Gomes had led off the inning with a single. Cespedes connected on the first pitch for his 19th homer of the season and third in four days.
Chris Davis' 26th homer, a solo shot off Oakland starter Tommy Milone, tied the score 2-2 in the top of the fifth, but the A's regained the lead in the bottom half. Adam Rosales opened with a double to left, advanced to third on Coco Crisp's single and scored on a Gomes single to left. Oakland had a chance for a big inning, but Josh Reddick lined into a double play at first base.
Milone (13-10) exited after pitching 61/3 innings, giving up six hits and two runs (one earned). Former Oriole Pat Neshek got the A's out of the seventh with a double-play grounder, Ryan Cook pitched a perfect eighth and Grant Balfour earned his 18th save with a scoreless ninth.
Balfour gave up a leadoff infield single to Mark Wieters but struck out pinch hitter Endy Chavez and retired Mark Reynolds on a fly to left. Catcher Derek Norris then threw out pinch runner Xavier Avery trying to steal second base to end the game with Davis at the plate.
The race for a playoff spot wasn't the only factor driving the A's on Friday. Pitcher Brandon McCarthy, still recovering from surgery after being hit in the head by a line drive on Sept. 5, paid his first visit to O.co Coliseum before the game after being released from the hospital earlier this week.
McCarthy made a brief but emotional appearance in the clubhouse, greeting teammates as they came in from batting practice. In turn, the players presented the right-hander a batting helmet with the words "heads up" inscribed across the brim.
McCarthy wasn't available to speak to the media, but relief pitcher Jerry Blevins said the meeting was full of levity and mutual warmth.
"There's just nothing that compares to the clubhouse atmosphere, and having him back and being around the guys, there's nothing that can beat that," Blevins said. "Everybody was excited and shook his hand and gave him a hug individually. It wasn't a big team meeting. Everybody kind of just waited their turn to talk to him."