Derek Norris doesn’t hit many home runs, but when he does, they win ball games.
Norris’ three-run homer with his team down 7-5 in the eighth inning powered the Oakland Athletics past the Chicago Cubs in the teams’ first ever meeting at the O.co Coliseum in this rare interleague matchup.
With Josh Donaldson on first and two out, Cubs manager Dale Sveum brought in the lefty James Russell to face Josh Reddick. Reddick drew a walk, and Sveum chose to leave Russell in the game to face Norris, a right-handed hitter. Immediately down 0-2 in the count, Norris kept battling and eventually got a pitch to hit. He drilled it over the center field wall, giving the A’s the lead:
All of Norris’ four homers this season have been off left-handed pitchers, and five of his 11 career home runs have given the A’s the lead.
He performed more heroics in the ninth, throwing out Luis Valbuena after Starlin Castro struck out swinging on a “strike him out, throw him out” double play that all but ended the Cubs’ hopes of tying the game.
It was not exactly the start that A.J. Griffin had in mind, as he allowed seven runs on 10 hits in just 5.2 innings pitched.
The killer for Griffin was the fourth inning, when the Cubs rallied from a 3-0 deficit to take a 5-3 lead. After back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, the always dangerous Alfonso Soriano smacked a three-run homer to deep center field, tying the game with one swing of the bat.
The Cubs tacked on two more runs in the frame, recording three more hits and a sacrifice fly.
The A’s responded in the bottom half of the inning. Taking advantage of an error by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, Coco Crisp drilled a single to right that scored two runs. Castro ran into Soriano on a pop fly hit by Erik Sogard, setting up runners at second and third with one out for Crisp.
However, it was just not Griffin’s night.
In the sixth, he allowed consecutive soft singles by Dionner Navorro and Brian Bogusevic. Wellington Castillo knocked them both in with a booming double over the head of Chris Young in center field to give the Cubs a 7-5 lead. That hit would end his night.
The A’s advance to 49-35 and lead the AL West by half a game over the Rangers.
Bartolo Colon (11-2, 2.79 ERA) faces Matt Garza (3-1, 3.83 ERA) tomorrow night at the O.co Coliseum.