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Cespedes fuels offense with high-octane bat

CLEVELAND -- Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have hounded this city enough on their own for the past few seasons. With the attention they draw from pitchers and opponents alike, it's easy to forget who's lurking behind them.

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On Monday, Yoenis Cespedes provided a reminder. In the process, he quietly had one of the best games of his career, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs in the Tigers' 8-5 win over the Indians.

"Cespy's been swinging a good bat," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's had good at-bats, even with two strikes."

Only one other time in Cespedes' big league tenure has he had at least three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored. That was on May 31 of last season, when he was still in Oakland. He fell a single shy of the cycle in that game, driving in five runs and scoring twice.

On Monday, the only way the Indians beat him was on a replay challenge. Even then, all they did was turn a two-run triple into an RBI ground-rule double, when replay showed Cespedes' slicing ball bounced off the railing in the right-field corner.

It was the opening inning, and Cespedes was just getting started. His next time up, he got the run back with a 407-foot liner to right-center field for a solo homer off Indians starter Trevor Bauer.

An inning later, Cespedes greeted Jeff Manship with a sacrifice fly to left field. After a hit-by-pitch in the seventh inning, Cespedes led off the ninth with a single, moved to third on a James McCann double and hustled home on Andrew Romine's fly ball to left for an insurance run.

All three of his hits went to the opposite field.

"It seems like he's gone the other way a little more recently," Ausmus said.

Cespedes has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games, batting .390 (23-for-59). He capably filled Martinez's usual cleanup spot for most of that time. With Martinez back, Cespedes has shifted to fifth in the order, staying in a run production spot.

It might be too late to earn him a starting spot in the American League All-Star outfield, but Cespedes is making a push there, moving up to fourth in balloting for three starting positions. It has come in time for the Tigers to try and balance out their offense.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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