Norris tells Straily not to bother shaking off pitch calls
Dan Straily's final line: 7 IP, H, 3 BB, 6 K, 87 P, W. (AP IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- The Athletics celebrated American Independence Day by defeating the Chicago Cubs 1-0 to secure the series victory and the team's 50th win of the season Thursday afternoon.
The A's reached the 50-win mark in just the 86th game of the season, something only eight teams in Oakland history have accomplished -- two of which went on to win the World Series.
Dan Straily tossed seven innings of one-hit ball and was dominant in his first big league start since June 22. He got the win thanks to the A's lone run -- an unearned run -- which came on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh.
Grant Balfour stranded the tying run at second base to record his second save of the series, bringing him within one converted save of Dennis Eckersley's franchise record of 40 straight.
It was the A's 18th win in their last 22 home games, as the Oakland franchise advanced to 25-19 all-time on the Fourth of July.
Starting pitcher report
A's manager Bob Melvin said before the game that he was looking for Dan Straily to rediscover the success he enjoyed from May 21-June 12, when the team's fifth starter went 3-0 with 2.47 ERA over a span of five starts.
Straily needed just 87 pitches to get through seven innings of one-hit ball. His efficiency was highlighted by a seven-pitch seventh, though he never needed more than 16 offerings in a frame.
The 24-year old came alive after walking Anthony Rizzo on a close 3-2 pitch in the second inning, striking out Dioner Navarro and Brian Bogusevic on six pitches.
Straily's final line: 7 IP, H, 3 BB, 6 K, 87 P, W.
Ryan Cook dispatched the Cubs in order in the eighth, making an important defensive play in the process.
Grant Balfour pitched the ninth, converting his 21st consecutive save this season and 39th dating back to last year. He is now one save shy of Dennis Eckersley's franchise record of 40 consecutive saves.
At the plate
Travis Wood will likely be the Cubs' lone representative at the All-Star Game July 16. The left-handed pitcher showed why with another quality start Thursday against the A's -- his 16th quality start in 17 attempts this season.
On Wednesday, the Cubs' game-winning run came after a wild pitch. On Thursday, it was a passed ball that gave the A's the deciding tally. Derek Norris drew a seventh-inning walk, advanced to third on a single by Seth Smith, and barreled home when Matt Guerrier's pitch slid between catcher Welington Castillo's legs. The A's might have scored more than once if Chris Young didn't get thrown out attempting to steal second with Norris at the plate.
American Independence Day didn't free Cuban-born Yoenis Cespedes from his funk. The A's cleanup hitter went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is now 9-for-59 (.153) with 23 strikeouts over his last 15 games. His season average is down to .221, while his on-base percentage dropped to .283.
Coco Crisp attempted to bunt his way on to start the game, something you don't often see from the speedster. Like Cespedes, Crisp is struggling at the plate; he's 6-for-45 (.133) over his last 12 games.
Nate Freiman and Derek Norris lashed singles in the second inning -- the A's only hits through the first five innings. But Wood fanned Cespedes, Young and Smith to keep the A's off the board.
A curious play in the bottom of the eighth brought Cubs manager Dale Sveum out to argue with home-plate umpire Brian Gorman. Gorman appeared to call timeout in the middle of Pedro Strop's windup. Jed Lowrie grounded out, but he was allowed to hit again, and almost made it hurt with a deep drive to the warning track in right-center field.
In the field
The A's flaunted powerful arms in the fourth inning, cutting down two runners on the bases.
Yoenis Cespedes came up firing on Alfonso Soriano's base hit, and his one-hop bullet to home gave Derek Norris just enough time to apply the tag on the sliding Starlin Castro. Cespedes had an adventurous night in left field Wednesday, but he gave the A's momentum with his defense Thursday.
It was Cespedes' fifth assist this season, as AL teams who have seen his arm consistently haven't tested him much this year. Add the Cubs -- and their third-base coach David Bell -- to the list of teams that now know.
Norris matched his left fielder's cannon two pitches later when Soriano attempted to steal, and what looked to be a troublesome inning for Straily ended quickly.
Ryan Cook got a wake-up call against the first batter he faced in the eighth, as he was given very little time to react to Dioner Navarro's line drive up the middle. Cook gloved it, knocking his "Stars and Stripes" cap to the ground in the process. He looked a bit surprised when he found the ball in his pocket.
Jed Lowrie made the ninth inning interesting when his throwing error put the tying run on second base, but Balfour bailed him out.
The A's announced a paid attendance of 26,967. No word on how many left with MLB's commemorative "Stars and Stripes" hat.
The A's set out on a six-game road trip through Kansas City and Pittsburgh with nine games remaining before the All-Star break. Left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone (7-7, 4.17 ERA) will face Royals' right-hander Wade Davis (4-6, 5.55 ERA) in the series opener Friday evening.