The Angels were nine outs away from a win over their first-place division rivals, sporting a two-run lead and lining the game up perfectly for the back end of their bullpen, until the mighty A's took their hacks and plated a combined 10 runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
The Angels are now 30-24 on the year, but only 10-14 against the American League West and 1-4 against the A's, who have taken the first two of this three-game series and lead them by 3 1/2 games in the division.
"We should've won the game today," Angels starter Tyler Skaggs said. "It's frustrating. We come back to the field tomorrow and start all over again. We're not going to hang our heads in here. There's still a lot more baseball to be played. We play them a lot more, so we'll be coming for them."
On Friday night, after Garrett Richards surrendered five runs before recording a third out, Josh Donaldson took over, homering twice, driving in another run with a single and robbing Erick Aybar of an RBI with a diving stop down the third-base line.
On Saturday night, it was all Cespedes, who threw two runners out at home plate in the top of the second, fell a single short of the cycle and drove in five runs.
His seventh-inning at-bat opened the floodgates.
Skaggs exited with runners on first and second, none out and a one-run lead, giving up a solo homer to Kyle Blanks and back-to-back singles to Coco Crisp and Nick Punto to start the bottom of the seventh. After a Craig Gentry sacrifice bunt, Angels manager Mike Scioscia ordered Smith to intentionally walk Jed Lowrie (.194 hitter in May) to face Donaldson (.940 OPS all year).
Smith got the ground ball he was looking for, but it was hit too softly to turn an inning-ending double play and wound up bringing in the tying run.
Then, with runners on second and third and two outs, his 1-2, up-and-away fastball to Cespedes sailed just over the outstretched glove of Kole Calhoun in right field.
"It hit the tip of the glove," said Calhoun, who wears a 12 3/4-inch glove and jokingly said he "might switch to a 13 1/2-inch glove now."
"I saw it pretty good, I thought I had a pretty good read on it," Calhoun added. "He hit that ball well."
Asked if he had any thought of walking Cespedes with first base open, Scioscia said, "We looked at it, but I wanted to give Joe a chance to have freedom to expand on Cespedes if he could, because when Joe's got it, he's really tough on righties."
Two batters later, Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run double down the right-field line to expand Oakland's lead to four. Then, in the eighth, Gentry hit an RBI single against Michael Kohn and Cespedes lifted a three-run homer against Jarrett Grube, the 32-year-old Minor League journeyman who was called up to the Major Leagues for the first time.
"He was hitting a buck-10 over the last 10 games, or whatever it was, and then when we needed him he steps up," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Cespedes, who entered with three hits in his previous 26 at-bats. "All the festivities, everything going on before, fans are out in full force doing their thing, and then all of a sudden he just becomes a different player."
The Angels and A's played three games that were all decided by one run from April 14-16 at Angel Stadium, but the Angels have been outscored by 12 in the first two games of this series, which will end with Jered Weaver matching up against Sonny Gray.
Without Mike Trout, who was scratched with tightness in his back, they had a chance to pull away against Tommy Milone early, but they failed to score despite loading the bases with none out in the first, were thrown out at home twice by Cespedes twice in the second, then watched it all slip away in the end.
"They played us tough this year, Seattle's played us tough, but I think the bottom line in this with us is we're still evolving as a team," Scioscia said. "They're a good team over there. You have to play at a high level, but we're going to have a chance to match up with them and get it done."