Athletics starter Dillon Overton had entered Friday night's game against the Cubs having allowed nine home runs in 18⅓ innings.
Six pitches into the game, he allowed his 10th homer of the season, a solo shot to Dexter Fowler. And if you don't think the Cubs missed Fowler at the top of the lineup while he was on the disabled list:
In 73 PA leading off games this season, Dexter Fowler is hitting:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 6, 2016
.406/.479/.781 with 7 Doubles, 3B, 5 HR, 7 BB, 2 HBP #Cubs
Two outs and two singles later, Jorge Soler came to the plate for his first major-league at-bat in almost two months, following a rehab assignment in which he went 6-for-37 with 16 strikeouts.
Soler smashed Overton's third pitch into the seats in Oakland for a three-run homer:
That started the Cubs on their way to a romp, 7-2 over the A's, their fifth win in a row. It's the Cubs' longest winning streak since a six-game streak in late May and with the win, they complete two-thirds of the 2016 season with 67 wins, a pace for 100.
Cubs players aren't likely too concerned about milestones like that, just winning. They can leave discussion of the historic nature of this season to us, and to the Cubs fans who are attending the games in Oakland. The crowd roar for the two first-inning homers made it sound like it was nearly half Cubs fans in the Oakland Coliseum.
The Cubs added three more runs in the third inning on an RBI single by Jason Heyward and a two-run double by Javier Baez. All told, the Cubs put together an 11-hit attack led by two-hit evenings from Fowler, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, the latter playing for the first time in the stadium of the team that drafted him No. 1 in 2012 and traded him to the Cubs two years ago in an "all-in" season that went "all-out" in the wild-card game against the Royals.
Now the A's and Cubs have swapped relative positions. The Cubs are the powerhouse hoping to win the World Series this year, and the A's are in rebuild mode. There were players in the Oakland lineup that I don't remember even seeing in spring-training games between the two teams, and I saw the A's play twice this past March.
While the Cubs' offensive explosion was going on, Jon Lester was efficiently retiring Oakland hitters. He allowed just one hit through the first five innings, a second-inning single to Khris Davis. Davis was promptly thrown out by David Ross trying to steal second, so Lester had faced the minimum number of hitters, 15, through five innings.
The A's put up a bit of a fuss in the sixth. Brett Eibner homered leading off the inning. It was his first hit for the A's after being acquired just before the deadline from the Royals. a double and an RBI single made it 7-2. But Lester settled down and got out of the inning, including fielding a comebacker nicely and making a perfect toss to Anthony Rizzo for the out. (That ordinarily wouldn't be worth mentioning, but as you know, Lester has had his troubles with that seemingly simple act in the past.) Lester finished with seven solid innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Carl Edwards Jr. and Joe Smith finished up with scoreless frames, Smith looking much better than he did in his Cubs debut earlier in the week. He did issue a two-out walk, but was otherwise untouched.
The Cubs improved to 9-4 in interleague games this year, and their pitching in those games has been particularly impressive:
#Cubs pitching this season in 13 interleague games:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 6, 2016
2.13 ERA, 118.1 IP, 75 Hits, 32 BB, 110 K, 0.904 WHIP
The five-run margin of victory improved the Cubs' record in blowout games (wins by more than five runs per baseball-reference) to 33-9, and their overall run differential to +176. That's 36 runs better than the next team, the Nationals (+140). During the current five-game winning streak the Cubs have outscored their opponents 27-14, and that includes two one-run wins.
It was certainly nice to see Soler come back with that homer. He hadn't hit well before his injury and had looked completely lost at the plate during his rehab assignment. If Soler can get back on track, this offense will be vastly improved. I'd expect to see him at DH at least one more time in this series, probably Sunday against another lefthander, Sean Manaea.
More fun notes on the Cubs' power display Friday evening:
Entering tonight, the A's had allowed ONE first inning HR at the Coliseum all year. #Cubs had 2 tonight.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 6, 2016
Last time A's allowed multiple 1st inning HR at the Coliseum, it was 7/19/2014, and Jason Hammel was the Oakland Pitcher.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 6, 2016
A reminder that Russ La Croix is away this weekend, and the Heroes & Goats feature will resume Monday with a recap of all the games this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Cubs/A's series will continue with a Saturday afternoon contest at 3:05 p.m. CT. Jake Arrieta will face Sonny Gray and the game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.