A’s surge into first with comeback over Cubs

OAKLAND COLISEUM — The Athletics scratched and clawed their way back against the lovable losers, fueled by an unlikely power source.

Despite A.J. Griffin giving up seven runs, Derek Norris saved the day with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth as the A’s came back Tuesday night to beat the Cubs, 8-7.

Manager Bob Melvin said by no means did they think the Cubs are an easy opponent:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

Video: CSN California

“This is a dangerous team that can do a lot of things very well. Their starting pitching has been terrific for them, they’re third in the league in homers. … There was no let down or even thinking about that from us going into this series.”

In the Cubs’ first-ever visit to Oakland, Alfonso Soriano banged out a three-run homer and Chicago scored five of its runs in the fourth inning. But three costly Cubs mistakes proved why they’re a mediocre ballclub.

Norris exclusively told SFBay the A’s make the most of their opportunities:

“That’s just the way baseball is, when a team makes mistakes you want to bury them. That’s what we try to do and we make the most of our opportunities. Whenever we get a chance to score some runs or get a chance to shut the door, we do it and we do a great job of it.”

In his previous start, Griffin tossed a complete game two-hit shutout, beating Homer Bailey and the Reds.

This time, he got rocked on the same night that Bailey no-hit the Giants.

Griffin was shelled for seven runs on ten hits, striking out six in 5-2/3 innings.

The A’s led 3-0 after a two-run homer by Josh Donaldson and a solo blast to left by Chris Young.

In the fourth, thanks to an error by shortstop Starlin Castro, Oakland scored twice to tie the game at 5-5. With Norris at first base via a walk, Eric Sogard hit a pop-up to shallow left. Castro went back on the ball to the point where he didn’t see left fielder Soriano, who should have caught the ball.

Instead, Castro deflected the ball with his glove putting runners at second and third. Coco Crisp took advantage with a single to center scoring the tying runs.

The Cubs retook the lead in the top of the sixth on a two-run double by Wellington Castillo. Chicago might have scored more if Castillo hadn’t been thrown out over-running second base.

In the eighth, after a single to center by Donaldson and a two-out walk to Josh Reddick, Norris — who hadn’t homered since June 11 — launched a James Russell changeup over the 15-foot wall in left center for a three-run homer.

Grant Balfour ended up notching his 20th save in as many chances, but made it interesting in the top of the ninth.

Balfour walked leadoff batter Luis Valbuena, but on a strikeout to Castro on a full count, Valbuena was running on the pitch and was gunned down by Norris at second base. Former Giant Nate Schierholtz grounded to second for the final out.

Notes

The A’s have won five of their last six games to improve to 49-35, their best record after 84 games since 1990 (53-31). They are 5-1 on the eight-game homestand. … Griffin tied his career-high with seven earned runs and gave up a career-high ten hits. … It was the first career win for Dan Otero.