So far the Oakland Athletics have played extraordinarily well against the NL Central, going 7-2 so far against the Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, and tonight versus the Cubs. That isn’t to say every game has been a cakewalk, but the A’s have found ways to win quite a number of games. Tonight the A’s had an extremely difficult time with the Chicago Cubs, who put up a valiant fight tonight. It was Derek Norris though who delivered the fatal blow to the Cubs when he launched a James Russell change up on the outer half of the plate for a 3-run home run to give the A’s an 8-7 lead. It was a positive ending to a roller coaster of a game.
A.J. Griffin was spectacular in his previous start, crafting his first career shutout in 2-hit fashion against the Cincinnati Reds and the man who allowed no hits today versus the San Francisco Giants, Homer Bailey. Today, he was far from spectacular as he struggled with his command, and was unable to keep the Cubs off the board after a few softly hit singles fell in. Alfonso Soriano delivered the first blow when he took Griffin deep to tie the game at 3 after Josh Donaldson and Chris Young had staked the A’s to a lead in the early going. He couldn’t stop the bleeding as the Cubs scored twice more in the inning.
The A’s had the offensive firepower to battle back though as Cubs skipper Dale Sveum lifted spot starter Chris Rusin (Original starter Scott Feldman was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day) in the 4th inning after allowing just those 3 runs. Carlos Villanueva promptly gave the lead away as Coco Crisp drove in the tying runs with a single that very closely resembled his ALDS Game 4 walk off single from last season. This one didn’t pack the same dramatic punch though, but it was still useful.
Griffin was left in the game a bit too long though, as he coughed up two more runs in the 6th inning on a Wellington Castillo 2-run double. Jerry Blevins was finally brought in to replace Griffin, and was able to escape the inning without any further damage. He would work through the 7th inning as well, Dan Otero worked a scoreless 8th inning and got the win. Grant Balfour walked the leadoff hitter in the 9th, but a strikeout and caught stealing double play would neutralize the threat and guide the A’s to their 49th victory.
With the win, coupled with the Rangers loss to the Mariners tonight, the A’s are back in first place by a 1/2 game in the AL West. Their 49-35 record matches the high water mark at 14 games over .500. All Star candidate Bartolo Colon looks to further pad his resume tomorrow as he takes his 11-2 record and 2.79 ERA to the hill against the subject of much trade speculation Matt Garza who is 3-1 with an ERA of 3.83. The A’s will hope to have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Rangers.