Straily's pitching, passed ball lead to 1-0 A's win

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland A's rookie right-hander Dan Straily said he arrived at the ballpark earlier than usual on Thursday morning.
A case of the jitters for a 24-year-old making his first big-league start after a return visit to Triple-A? No, that wasn't it.
"I didn't know which of their guys batted right-handed and which batted left-handed," he said of the Chicago Cubs, the A's interleague opponent. "I had to do my research."
Righty or lefty, it didn't matter. All of the Cubs' hitters were mystified by Straily, who allowed only one hit in seven innings and benefited when battery-mate Derek Norris scored the only run of the game on a two-out passed ball in the bottom of the seventh as the A's overcame a stellar pitching effort by Travis Wood for a 1-0 victory.
It was the first time since the A's moved to Oakland in 1968 that either an A's or Cubs game ended 1-0 as the result of a passed ball.
"Before the game, (Norris) told me, 'I'm going to be your Crash Davis today. Throw whatever I call,'" Straily said. "I guess you could say we were on the same page. It was his page."
In picking up their 50th win of the season -- just the second time in the last 10 years they've reached that mark before the All-Star break -- the A's managed to win two of three from the Cubs in the competitive series.
After a pitchers' duel between Chicago's Matt Garza and Oakland's Bartolo Colon in a 3-1 Cubs win, Straily (5-2) and Wood matched zeroes until Cubs manager Dale Sveum chose to pull his left-hander after six innings, having thrown 101 pitches.
"It's a long season," Sveum said of his decision to replace Wood with Matt Guerrier (2-4) to start the Oakland seventh. "That's a lot of pitches for six innings."
Straily, who threw 14 fewer pitches than Wood even though he worked one more inning, was promoted from Triple-A Sacramento before the game to start in place of Jarrod Parker, who was pushed back to Saturday because of pain in his right hamstring.
Straily's fourth consecutive win was a performance similar to the one that produced a 1-0 victory at Texas on May 21 in what had previously been his finest major-league moment.
The only hit off Straily was a fourth-inning single to left field by Alfonso Soriano that actually produced an out. Starlin Castro, who had walked to open the inning, was gunned down at the plate by Yoenis Cespedes trying to score from second base.
"That's the ballgame," Straily said of Cespedes' throw and Norris' tag. "Otherwise, we'd still be playing right now."
Soriano was thrown out stealing with Anthony Rizzo at the plate and Straily went on to retire nine of the last 10 hitters he faced, allowing only a sixth-inning walk to Luis Valbuena.
In matching a career-best seven innings, Straily struck out six and walked three before handing the ball over to Ryan Cook, who pitched a scoreless eighth. Grant Balfour capped a combined two-hitter and the A's seventh shutout of the season by pitching around a single by Castro and a two-out error by shortstop Jed Lowrie in the ninth for his 21st save.
Balfour got Soriano, the Cubs' second-leading RBI man, to fly to right field with runners on first and second to end the game.
The A's caught a break in the seventh when Cubs catcher Welington Castillo could not handle a breaking ball from reliever Guerrier, who was pitching for the first time for Chicago after he was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. The two-out passed ball allowed Norris, who had walked and advanced to third on a Seth Smith single, to race home from third base with the only run of the game.
"Maybe not catching him," Sveum said of Castillo's inexperience with Guerrier. "Who knows?"
Norris, who also hustled from first to third on Smith's hit, could not feel sorry for his Cubs counterpart.
"I will never sympathize with a player from the other team unless there's an injury," he said. "Anytime we can get a run, I'll put pressure on them all game long."
Wood, who before the game was labeled by Sveum as the team's leading All-Star candidate, left after six shutout innings, having limited the A's to three singles and one walk. He struck out five in the 16th quality start in 17 outings this season.
"Personally, I've got to figure out how to win the ballgame," the five-game winner said, adding that he wasn't surprised to get Sveum's hook. "It was a battle today. Kinda a grind. A lot of 3-2 counts. I knew the pitch count had to be up."
NOTES: The win was just the 15th in A's history since 1916 in which the team had no RBIs. ... Guerrier and RHP Pedro Strop, both acquired in trades Tuesday, made their Cubs debuts in relief and became the club's 40th and 41st players to see action this season, matching the franchise record for before the All-Star break. ... Cubs CF Brian Bogusevic left the game in the third inning because of tightness in his left hamstring. ... The Cubs announced before the game that they will promote RHP Carlos Villanueva from the bullpen to start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Villanueva, who began the season in the Cubs' rotation, is filling a spot created by the trade of RHP Scott Feldman to Baltimore on Tuesday. ... To make room for Straily on the active roster, the A's sent C Stephen Vogt back to Triple-A Sacramento. ... A's LHP Brett Anderson will have the stress fracture in his right foot examined Friday. Returning to the starting rotation after the All-Star break and having season-ending surgery are two possible courses of action to be determined in the exam. ... The Cubs reportedly have agreed to terms with the No. 1 international prospect -- OF Eloy Sanchez -- made available Tuesday to big-league clubs from countries not eligible for the Major League Draft. Chicago reportedly has agreed to pay the 16-year-old Dominican $2.8 million.