Cespedes is a playoff rookie in name only

Cespedes is a playoff rookie in name only

Cespedes is a playoff rookie in name only
OAKLAND -- Oakland reliever Ryan Cook looked toward the gap in left-center field, pointed and screamed, "Atta boy!" at the top of his lungs.

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder grimaced, looked down at the ground and jogged back to the dugout in disbelief after being robbed of a hit for a second time on the night.

Behind them, Oakland left fielder Yoenis Cespedes picked himself off the Coliseum's outfield grass and fired the ball to second base. He jogged back to his position after the first out of the seventh inning in Game 3 of American League Division Series on Tuesday like he had just caught a routine fly ball, and not just made one of the most spectacular leaping catches in the postseason.

He didn't even crack a smile.

If Cespedes acts like he has been in the playoffs before, it's because he has.

"I played eight years in Cuba and I went to the playoffs seven times," Cespedes said on Monday. "I know how it is."

A's vs. Tigers

Cespedes was an international star for one of the most famous baseball teams in the world before he stepped foot on American soil, so forgive the former Cuban national team member if the number of feats on his list of "been there and done that" is large. But the reality is that the outfielder has never done that here, not on the biggest stage in baseball and not in front of almost 40,000 screaming A's fans.

When the A's beat the Tigers, 2-0, it marked another feat and arguably the most important "first" to date for the rookie and his teammates: Oakland's first playoff win of the season. The Tigers still lead the series two games to one heading into Game 4 on Wednesday at the Coliseum. Cespedes is hitting .333 with two RBIs and two stolen bases in the first three games of the series.

"He's labeled here in the big leagues as a rookie, but you know he's not," A's outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "He's a great hitter, and it's been exciting to watch him grow."

In the first inning, Cespedes drove in Coco Crisp with a single up the middle for a 1-0 lead. But he's driven in plenty of game-winning runs in his career, too, so he probably doesn't want to make that big of a deal about it, either.

Cespedes didn't speak to reporters after Tuesday's game, and he was all business during batting practice before Game 4. He didn't have to say much. His actions have been speaking volumes all season.

"Boy, our defense last night, as much as anything, ignited the crowd," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "And we've seen Yoenis make huge strides in left field. Now, suddenly, he's just a plus-left fielder. It was a struggle for him before, both mentally and physically, and he's just bought in 100 percent to it and worked his tail off. We're reaping some serious rewards with what he's doing in left right now."

Cespedes received thunderous applause during pregame introductions on Tuesday, and he worked the crowd into a frenzy every time he stepped into the batter's box.

The crowd went wild after his first-inning single and cheered just as loudly during the next two at-bats that weren't nearly as successful. Cespedes popped out to second base on the first pitch he saw from Detroit reliever Rick Porcello for the final out of the eighth inning and finished the game 1-for-4.

"He's a big-time player, and it doesn't surprise me he comes up in the first inning and gets the first hit that knocks a run in," Melvin said. "That's the type of guy he's going to be his whole career, where he's going to shine against good pitching in good moments. We've seen that all year."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.