Norris' late blast lets A's overtake Cubs

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It's been almost 15 months since Dan Otero made his major league pitching debut, plenty of time for the 28-year-old to envision multiple ways in which he might record his first big-league win.
On a two-out, two-strike, three-run home run by a .203-hitting catcher after Otero gave up two hits in his only inning of work?
Nope, never considered that one.
However, that's the way the Athletics left-hander's first win will go into the record book. Derek Norris belted a three-run shot off Chicago Cubs reliever James Russell in the eighth inning Tuesday night, rallying Oakland past its short-handed foe 8-7 in a 3-hour, 18-minute interleague slugfest.
The dramatic win, Oakland's 10th in 13 games against National League competition this season, allowed the A's to overtake the Texas Rangers atop the American League West standings.
Otero headed home with an original lineup card to be framed over the fireplace and a handful of game-used balls for a lightly adorned trophy case.
"D-No deserved that," the reliever said of the club's ceremonial pie-in-the-face to the late-inning star of the game. "That was pretty cool. A great game to be a part of."
Playing a regular-season game in Oakland for the first time in their history, the Cubs saw their record fall to 4-3 on their current nine-game trip despite twice building two-run leads, the last of which the result of a two-RBI double by Welington Castillo off A's starter A.J. Griffin in the sixth inning.
The Cubs suited up only 24 players on a day that began with three trades, one of which sent Tuesday's scheduled starter, Scott Feldman, to the Baltimore Orioles. Left-hander Chris Rusin was summoned quickly from Triple-A Iowa to make his first big-league start of the season.
Chicago acquired three players -- right-handed starter Jake Arrieta and right-handed reliever Pedro Strop in the Feldman deal with Baltimore, and right-handed reliever Matt Guerrier from the Los Angeles Dodgers -- two of which they hope will aid a beleaguered bullpen that entered the game with a 4.29 ERA.
"It's almost comical to see this happen about every single night," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the bullpen's blown lead. "The guys who are doing it ... it's not like Norris kills left-handers."
In exchange for Arrieta and the bullpen help, the Cubs dealt away four players -- Feldman and backup catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles, right-handed reliever Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers and minor league second baseman Ronald Torreyes to the Houston Astros.
The A's, who used home runs by Josh Donaldson, his 14th, and Chris Young, his eighth, to build an early three-run lead, rallied in the last of the eighth following Donaldson's second hit, an inning-opening single off the Cubs' third pitcher, Blake Parker.
The righty got the next two A's out, then was pulled in favor of Russell (1-2).
After the left-hander walked left-handed-hitting Josh Reddick, Sveum elected to keep Russell in the game to face the light-hitting Norris, a right-handed swinger, instead of calling upon right-hander Hector Rondon.
"It depends what you wanted," Sveum said of his decision to go after Norris, who hit just .160 in June. "They'd have had (pinch-hit options) Seth Smith or (Brandon) Moss against Rondon."
Russell got two quick strikes on Norris, then threw two balls before the catcher blasted a towering shot just over the 388-foot marker in center field for his fourth home run of the season.
"I was a little in awe when they didn't make the change," Norris said. "When they didn't, I told myself, 'Don't miss it if you get it.'"
Grant Balfour, after walking Luis Valbuena to open the ninth, recorded his 20th consecutive save. He preserved the win for Otero (1-0), who watched on television from the clubhouse. Norris assisted in the save, throwing out Valbuena on a steal attempt to complete a double play after Balfour struck out Starlin Castro.
"I was just sitting here on the couch with (Jerry) Blevins and Griffin," Otero said when asked if he was nervous in the ninth inning. "I knew we had it. That's what (Balfour) does."
Alfonso Soriano's three-run home run, his 10th of the season, in a five-run fourth inning and Castillo's two-run double in the sixth were the key blows for the Cubs, who out-hit the A's 13-10. Castillo had a season-best three RBIs.
Griffin, coming off an interleague shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals, gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked one.
NOTES: The Cubs expect Arrieta, Strop and Guerrier to join the club Wednesday. They will have to make two roster moves in order to add all three. ... The Coliseum was the 121st different ballpark in which a Cubs regular-season game has been played. They've played at least one game in 29 of the current 30 stadiums, missing only the new Yankee Stadium. ... Cubs DH Dioner Navarro had a double and two singles in four at-bats, raising the average of the Chicago DH in interleague games to .444. ... The Cubs had $5.5 million to spend on players when all international prospects from countries not eligible for the draft became available Tuesday. By the end of the day, they'd exhausted more than half of it on 16-year-old Venezuelan SS Gleyber Torres ($1.7 million), the second-ranked prospect on Baseball America's list, 18-year-old Dominican Republic RHP Jefferson Mejia ($850,000) and 16-year-old Colombian RHP Erling Moreno ($800,000). ... A's RHP Jarrod Parker struggled through a bullpen session with continuing pain in his right hamstring, leaving his scheduled start in Thursday's series finale a bit of a question mark. The A's still have him penciled in to face Chicago LHP Travis Wood. ... The A's signed a pair of shortstops, 16-year-old Nicaraguan Jesus Lopez and 16-year-old Dominican Carlos Hiciano.

What to Read Next