OAKLAND — Derek Norris hit a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Oakland Athletics rallied to beat the Chicago Cubs 8-7 on Tuesday night to regain the AL West lead.
Norris sent the 2-2 pitch from James Russell (1-2) over the left-center field wall for his fourth home run this season. Josh Donaldson and Chris Young also homered to put the A’s a half-game ahead of Texas, which lost 9-2 at Seattle.
Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer to highlight a five-run fifth inning and Welington Castillo drove in three runs for Chicago, which twice blew a two-run lead. The Cubs are 35-46 at their season’s midpoint.
Dan Otero (1-0) pitched one scoreless inning for his first career win, and Grant Balfour finished for his 20th straight save this season and 38th overall.
Oakland can once again thank its on-again, off-again catcher for a comeback. Five of Norris’ 11 career home runs have given the A’s the lead, and his latest might’ve even been bigger with starter John Jaso nursing an injured left hand.
Not to mention that he bailed out the men on the mound. Norris threw out Luis Valbuena for the second out of the ninth after Balfour struck out Starlin Castro.
And after tossing his first complete game to beat Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati Reds his last time out, A’s starter A.J. Griffin gave up 10 hits and tied his career-high with seven earned runs in 5 2-3 innings. Bailey threw his second career no-hitter Tuesday night to lead the Reds past the San Francisco Giants, 3-0.
Chris Rusin was called up from Triple-A Iowa after Chicago’s scheduled starter Scott Feldman was traded to Baltimore in the morning. Rusin allowed six hits, struck out two and walked none in 3 1-3 innings for the no-decision in his first major league start this season. He was pitching on three days’ rest, so Cubs manager Dale Sveum pulled Rusin after 61 pitches.
The A’s roughed up Rusin at the outset.
Donaldson hit his 14th home run in the first, and Young followed with his eighth longball of the season in the second to give Oakland a 3-0 lead. The A’s missed a chance to pile on — and perhaps run Rusin out of the game even earlier — when Jed Lowrie struck out with the bases loaded to end the second.
While Rusin regrouped in his short stint, so did Chicago’s offense.
Soriano started the scoring burst when he sent the tying homer over the wall in center for his 10th home run of the season. The Cubs sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, with Darwin Barney adding a sacrifice fly and Castillo hitting an RBI single to stretch Chicago’s lead to 5-3.
The Cubs collapsed on defense in the bottom half behind Carlos Villanueva, who allowed two unearned runs in 3 1-3 innings of relief. Running back and to his right on Adam Rosales’ short fly, shortstop Castro collided with Soriano in left field and the ball dropped. Coco Crisp followed with a tying, two-run single.
Castillo’s two-run double over the head of Young in center put the Cubs back ahead, 7-5, and chased Griffin. Griffin, who threw a two-hitter against the Reds in his last start, matched the seven earned runs he gave up in a loss at Boston on April 22 for the worst outing of his two-year career.
The Red Sox also scored two unearned runs in that game.
NOTES: A’s manager Bob Melvin said RHP Jarrod Parker felt a slight discomfort and tightness in his right hamstring during a bullpen session. Melvin said a decision will be made Wednesday on whether Parker, who left with the injury in the fourth inning of Saturday’s loss against St. Louis, will make his next scheduled start Thursday against the Cubs. … The Cubs had never played a regular-season game at the Oakland Coliseum. The franchise has now played in every current major league city and every active ballpark except the new Yankee Stadium. … Bartolo Colon (11-2, 2.79 ERA) looks to win his ninth straight start when the A’s face Matt Garza (3-1, 3.82 ERA) and the Cubs on Wednesday.