After a 10-game homestand started with three straight losses, the Oakland Athletics have righted themselves and now own the most wins in the American League.
They’ll try to add to a four-game winning streak as they begin the final three of the home stretch Monday night against the Chicago White Sox, who open a nine-game road trip without quite as much confidence.
Oakland (23-15), which has also won five straight at home against Chicago (19-20), has outscored opponents 23-4 in the last four games. A three-game home sweep of Washington ended with Sunday’s 9-1 victory as Derek Norris hit a pair of three-run homers against Gio Gonzalez, the pitcher he was traded for after the 2011 season.
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Norris, who is part of a catching platoon with John Jaso while batting .385, is continuing to make a case for everyday at-bats with a 6-for-12 mark in the winning streak.
"It was one of those special days," said Norris, whose six RBIs were a career high. "I’ve never hit two home runs in a game. It still feels surreal."
Oakland’s AL-best pitching staff has gotten a huge lift lately from the bullpen, which has a 1.27 ERA and a .173 opponents’ batting average over the past nine games.
The White Sox have lost three of four, and those games came at home against the NL’s worst teams, the Cubs and Arizona. A 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks to conclude a 1-2 series Sunday had manager Robin Ventura putting his players on warning.
"They were just flat, couldn’t get anything going," Ventura said. "Something is going to happen. I don’t know what yet, but something."
Chicago will try to change that in support of John Danks, who will be opposed by Jesse Chavez.
Chavez (2-1, 2.47 ERA), after allowing four earned runs in his first four starts, has been up and down in his last three. The right-hander gave up four runs on seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to Seattle. Most of the damage came in a three-run first, and manager Bob Melvin was pleased with what followed.
"He was a little out of sorts in the first inning but battled, and that’s a sign of a guy that can recover and pitch well, and he kept us in the game," Melvin told the team’s official website.
The first-year starter, who had made 189 relief appearances with just two starts before this season, is 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in seven games out of the bullpen against Chicago.
The White Sox’s Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers are a combined 0 for 13 against Chavez. Paul Konerko is 4 for 4.
Danks (3-2, 4.93) has seen his ERA climb more than two runs in his last three starts, though he earned a win in Wednesday’s 8-3 victory over the Cubs after allowing three runs on four hits while striking out a season-high eight in six innings. He had given up 12 runs over 10 2-3 innings in his previous two starts.
The left-hander has had little trouble against Oakland, going 6-1 with a 2.12 ERA in nine starts. Danks held the A’s to a run on three hits in eight innings in his only 2013 start against them on June 8.
He’s held Jed Lowrie hitless in nine at-bats while Daric Barton is 6 for 13.
A’s leadoff hitter Coco Crisp missed the Washington series with a sore neck and is expected to remain out through the series with Chicago.
Beckham is batting .344 on a seven-game hitting streak.