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LAD@OAK: Cespedes belts a walk-off homer in the ninth

OAKLAND -- The game was over either way, whether or not Yoenis Cespedes' screamer of a line drive made it over the left-field wall.

That it did, giving the A's a 4-1 walk-off victory over the Dodgers in the ninth inning for a three-game sweep. It made the ensuing celebration that much sweeter, the fist-pumps around the dugout that much harder, and the sight of Cespedes -- coming off a strained left hamstring -- jumping on home plate that much more forgiving.

"Injury is out the window at that point," Brandon Inge said, laughing. "Be ready."

"I thought about it," Cespedes said through a translator, "and I know what happened to [Kendrys] Morales, so I wasn't going to jump. But no chance. I jumped."

And so did the A's, to just two games below the .500 mark with their eighth win in the last nine games Thursday, after being nine under as recently as June 10. Oakland has claimed three straight series wins for the first time since September 2010, and has collected wins in 12 of the last 18 contests, finding its way back to relevancy after dropping nine straight just weeks ago.

"We were on the opposite end of it not too long ago," Inge said. "At the time, our attitude as a team when we were going through it was, 'Let's stick with it. Things will turn around.' And they did. Now, you don't get too high, just like you don't get too low."

Cespedes' game-winning blast capped an eventful ninth inning, which began in a 1-1 tie. Coco Crisp led off with a walk, and the A's outfielder advanced to second on a wild pitch before moving to third via Jemile Weeks' ensuing bunt single that brought up the team's biggest threat with runners at the corners.

Staring down a 1-0 pitch, Cespedes lined a fastball from Los Angeles righty Josh Lindblom toward the left-field foul pole. A sacrifice fly would've done the job, but Cespedes got much more in the form of a three-run homer, marking the first walk-off hit of his young Major League career.

"I wasn't looking for a specific pitch," Cespedes said. "I was just looking for something to drive deep enough to bring in a run. I knew it was in fair territory. What I didn't know was it was going to be a home run.

"I'm very happy. My teammates have already said, 'You have done so much. You have hit home runs. You have put us ahead, but you still need a walk-off.' I was very happy to get it today."

"It's fun," added Inge. "Walk-offs, that's the best thing you can have in baseball."

"I knew it was game over," starter Travis Blackley said. "Even if he caught it. But he smoked it. As soon as he hit it, we all ran out. We didn't even worry if it made it out."

Meanwhile, the National League's best team compiled just eight hits -- the fewest surrendered by an A's team since at least 1918 -- and two runs in its first road sweep of the season, with only three hits coming against Blackley on Thursday. Oakland pitchers have allowed 22 hits over the past six games, which is also fewest by an A's team over a six-game span since at least 1918.

Only four balls hit by the Matt Kemp-less Dodgers left the infield Thursday, and Blackley faced two over the minimum through eight, less than 24 hours after fellow southpaw Tommy Milone stifled the same lineup with a complete-game effort.

"Honestly, we didn't do enough in any of the games to win any of them," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "We didn't put them in any danger at any point of the series. We didn't have guys in scoring position. You can't really expect to win if you don't get guys on base. We got chances and didn't execute. They got chances and we didn't execute. We're not good enough to not execute. We didn't deserve to win any of these."

Blackley's work was aided by that of his new batterymate, Derek Norris. The A's catcher, making his Major League debut, not only showcased impressive game-calling skills, but in the top of the ninth, demonstrated an effective arm that gunned down a speedy Dee Gordon at second base with one out to wipe a threat in the pivotal frame.

Not to be forgotten was a key play by Inge just minutes before. The A's third baseman snagged Gordon's bunt off closer Ryan Cook and threw to second just in time to get lead runner Matt Treanor out on a gutsy play.

"You're going to have to pick it up perfectly, have to make a great throw, he's bare-handing it," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "But he is as good a defender at third as you're going to find. He's not afraid in situations like that. You can't be afraid to make a mistake and he wasn't. Now we have a runner on first we have to worry about, but the combination of being quick to the plate, which Cook's been working on since Spring Training on, and Norris making a great throw, [was] as big a play as there was in the game."

It was Inge's sacrifice fly off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw in the second that got the A's on the board first, with Los Angeles tying things up in the fourth on Juan Rivera's RBI single. But the close-knit affair wasn't meant for extras -- not with the game in Cespedes' hands.

"I don't think it mattered if it wasn't going to be high enough," Inge said. "It was probably going to make a hole in the wall. He hit that hard. He's a strong boy."

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