OAKLAND – For much of this season, when A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had a particularly productive game at the plate, manager Bob Melvin would follow it by saying he hoped it was the beginning of the true hot streak the A's hadn't yet seen from Cespedes in his second season.
He may be in the middle of it now. Cespedes continued his late offensive awakening by homering in his first at-bat Friday night as the A's beat the Minnesota Twins 11-0 to put themselves in a position where they could clinch the American League West title today.
The A's can clinch the West with a win and a Rangers loss. If the A's hold up their end, they'll likely have to wait to find out whether they are division champions, as the Rangers and Kansas City Royals are scheduled to begin play three hours after the A's and Twins.
Asked how the A's would handle the wait if they do win today, Melvin said: "I haven't given it any thought. I know we play (today) at (1:05 p.m.), and then we'll consider what the options are after that."
"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind," catcher Derek Norris said of a potential celebration. "But we've got to come out and win a game tomorrow."
When the Rangers' loss went final Friday night, the out-of-town scoreboard operator who slipped the "F" tablet into place wiggled it back and forth, as if to alert an announced crowd of 36,067 at O.co Coliseum. It seemed to work, as the crowd broke out in cheers.
The A's led 3-0 at that point with a three-run second inning against Twins left-hander Andrew Albers, started by Cespedes' 25th home run of the season.
After not batting above .237 in any previous month this year, Cespedes is batting .358 (24 for 67) in September with five homers, 16 RBIs and multiple hits in 10 of his 18 games.
"This is the guy that we feel like we always expect to see," Melvin said. "He had a little bit of a slow first half, but he's picking it up at the right time."
Cespedes drove a full-count fastball from Albers to left-center, marking the first time he has homered in consecutive games since May 5-6.
Currently, he's doing it despite tendinitis in his right shoulder that has kept him from playing catch and relegated him to a designated hitter role.
Before the game, Melvin said Cespedes will remain as the DH "for at least a few days."
Norris followed Cespedes' homer with a line drive to right field that Oswaldo Arcia appeared to lose in the lights, letting it get past him for a double. After Josh Reddick's single scored Norris, Arcia helped the A's again by misplaying Daric Barton's single, allowing Reddick to score from first.
The A's poured it on in the middle innings, knocking Albers out in a fifth inning in which they batted around.
Bartolo Colon, meanwhile, finished one shy of his season high with eight strikeouts in six scoreless innings and became the 11th pitcher in A.L. history with at least 17 wins in his age-40 season.
Since returning from the disabled list in late August, Colon has allowed no more than one earned run in any of his five starts. In his last three starts, Colon is 3-0 while throwing 20 innings, giving up one run and striking out 22. His 2.64 ERA, if the season ended today, would be the lowest of his career.
"Real similar to what we saw his last time out, which is really good to see," Melvin said. "He's talked about getting his second wind, and now we're seeing the movement again, we're seeing the velocity coming back."
Note – Before the game, Ryan Cook threw in the bullpen under the supervision of Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young, with Melvin saying the struggling reliever was working on some mechanical adjustments suggested by Young.
In his last 13 outings, Cook has allowed 20 hits and six earned runs over eight innings.
Melvin said the positive is Cook hasn't lost velocity or break off his pitches.
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.