The Chicago Cubs are again toiling near the bottom of the NL, but it's not because of their play against the AL.
Looking to continue their interleague success, the Cubs try to win their fourth straight series Thursday against the Oakland Athletics .
At 11-5 against AL opponents with four such games remaining, Chicago (36-46) secured its first winning interleague record since going 8-4 in 2007 with a 3-1 win at Oakland on Wednesday. The Cubs have hit .293 and averaged 6.1 runs against the AL, compared to .231 with 3.7 per contest against the NL.
Luis Valbuena homered and was one five players with two hits Wednesday for Chicago, which improved to 5-3 on a nine-game trip. A victory Thursday would give the Cubs a fourth consecutive series win after losing nine of the previous 11.
Alfonso Soriano has keyed their good results against AL opponents, batting .378 with 10 RBIs during a 10-game interleague hitting streak. He's hit .409 with nine RBIs in the last five, and 37 of his 39 RBIs this season have come in his last 50 games.
The Cubs hand the ball to Travis Wood (5-6, 2.85 ERA) on Thursday. The left-hander had a 3.06 ERA in five June starts but went 0-3 while his teammates provided him with an average 2.51 runs of support.
Wood, who went 0-8 during a 10-start stretch last season, allowed two runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings Friday at Seattle and left with a two-run lead before Chicago lost 5-4 in 10 innings.
"Travis pitched another heck of a ballgame," manager Dale Sveum said. "About as snakebit as it can get, giving up his wins."
Making his first appearance against the A's, Wood is 1-1 with a 3.16 ERA against AL opponents this season.
Brandon Moss homered for one of the four hits Wednesday for Oakland (49-36), which lost for the fourth time in 21 home contests. Josh Donaldson went 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts after going 10 for 20 with four homers and nine RBIs in his previous six contests.
Sent to the minors June 23, Straily is 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA in his past seven major league starts but failed to complete five innings in the last two - both on the road. He allowed a combined eight runs and 14 hits in eight frames.
"He's done some good things for us this year," manager Bob Melvin told the Athletics' official website. "The last couple of starts haven't been his best, but he was on quite a roll for us there, too."
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last three home starts.
If the A's lose, they will have dropped two of three games in all three series they have played against the Cubs.
|June 30, 2013||Ryan Sweeney||60-Day DL||Fractured left rib|
|June 15, 2013||David DeJesus||15-Day DL||Right shoulder sprain|
|June 14, 2013||David DeJesus||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right shoulder|
|June 12, 2013||Zach Putnam||60-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 11, 2013||Zach Putnam||Day-to-Day||Left game - Undisclosed injury|
|May 27, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||60-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|June 29, 2013||Jarrod Parker||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring cramp|
|June 20, 2013||Derek Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - groin injury|
|June 11, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|May 07, 2013||Josh Reddick||15-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
|May 07, 2013||Josh Reddick||15-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
|May 06, 2013||Jarrod Parker||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained neck|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Derek Norris had a huge impact by making a couple of big plays right at home plate.
Norris scored on a passed ball with two outs in the seventh inning, and the Oakland Athletics beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on Thursday.
He also put the tag on Starlin Castro trying to score, threw out a runner at second and called Dan Straily 's best game as a major league pitcher.
"He was pretty much the hero of the day," Straily said. "Even when I tried to shake him off he put down the same finger and set up. We were on the same page all day - his page really and it was a good one."
Straily (5-2) pitched seven innings of one-hit ball after being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento earlier in the day. He made the start to allow a sore Jarrod Parker to get two extra days of rest.
"Even if I didn't have my best stuff I was going to give it everything I had," said Straily, who struck out six and walked three. "My slider was not as sharp as it's been but it was good enough."
Ryan Cook pitched the eighth and Grant Balfour finished for his 21st save in 21 chances, completing the two-hitter. Balfour has converted 39 straight save opportunities dating to last year, one off the team record held by Dennis Eckersley .
Norris set up the only run of the game when he walked with two outs in the seventh and went to third on Seth Smith 's single.
Oakland then sent Eric Sogard to the plate to hit for Adam Rosales , and Matt Guerrier threw an 0-1 pitch to the outside part of the plate. Sogard swung and missed, and it went off the glove of Welington Castillo , allowing Norris to score the unearned run.
"I saw it go between his legs," Norris said. "You know the guy may bounce one in the dirt because he can't throw all fastballs and that's what you look for: any chance to score. I tried to kick it into another gear just in case the ball bounced right back to him but fortunately it kicked off to the right."
It was the first appearance for Guerrier (2-4) since he was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers . Castillo, catching Guerrier for the first time, wasn't sure what to expect from the pitch that got away.
"He made a good pitch," Castillo said. "I just didn't get a good read on it and it went between my legs."
Cubs starter Travis Wood allowed three hits over six innings in his third consecutive no-decision. He is 0-3 in his last six starts despite a 2.58 ERA over that stretch.
"You have to keep battling every single day," Wood said. "Their guy pitched awesome. He kept us off balance and off the scoreboard. I have to find a way to win these games."
The Cubs had a chance to score in the fourth but Yoenis Cespedes cut down Castro trying to come home from second on Alfonso Soriano 's single to left field. Soriano was later thrown out by Norris attempting to steal second, ending the inning.
"I didn't think, when the ball was hit, he had a chance," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Cespedes. "That was a spectacular throw. I don't know if there's a left fielder with a stronger arm."
Castro walked to open the inning and advanced when Nate Schierholtz grounded out.
"That was perfect throw," Norris said. "It took one bounce and hopped right to my stomach."
The A's also had a potential run thrown out on the bases. Chris Young singled with one out in the seventh but was caught stealing by Castillo.
Pedro Strop pitched a scoreless ninth in his Cubs debut as the team matched a franchise record for players used before the All-Star break with 41. The Cubs also extended their franchise record by using 23 pitchers before the break.
NOTES: Cubs OF Brian Bogusevic left after the top of third inning with left hamstring tightness. ... The A's optioned C Stephen Vogt to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Straily. ... The Cubs announced that RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.45 ERA) will start Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, filling the spot vacated when RHP Scott Feldman was traded to the Baltimore Orioles . Villanueva started the year in the rotation, but went to the bullpen when RHP Matt Garza came off the disabled list. ... RHP Jeff Samardija (5-7, 3.34 ERA) will take the mound Friday night against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. He's 4-2 with a 1.56 ERA against the Pirates in his career, though just 1-2 against them this year. ... LHP Tommy Milone (7-7, 4.17 ERA) will start for the A's in Kansas City. He's 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA over his last four starts. ... According to Sports Features Group, the last time the Cubs lost a 1-0 game, with the lone run scored on a passed ball, was July 1, 1962, in Milwaukee.