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Game Thread #84: A's Vs. Cubs

For the first time ever, the Oakland Athletics play host to the least-most storied franchise in the National League. Or maybe the most-least storied. Either way, it's happening, and most of us will be watching from home on TV because the BART strike has rendered the ever-so-accessible Oakland Coliseum not particularly accessible.

Can A.J. earn another post-game hug tonight, this time from Norris?
Can A.J. earn another post-game hug tonight, this time from Norris?

The A's woke up this morning expecting to face yet another right-handed pitcher -- Scott Feldman. The Cubbies' front office, though, had other plans, and dealt Feldman and Steve Clevenger to Baltimore this morning in exchange for Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta, and two international signing slots. The Cubs also dealt Carlos Marmol to Los Angeles, so their pitching staff is a little different going into this series from what the A's expected to see.

In Feldman's place, the Cubs have called up southpaw Chris Rusin, who is making his first MLB appearance of 2013. In seven appearances and 29.2 innings pitched last year, he gave up 38 hits and 11 walks, giving him a career WHIP of 1.65 and a 6.37 ERA. More recently, he's posted a 2.86 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP for AAA-Iowa in 2013. Obviously, a player who's technically a rookie making his first start of the season for the Cubs on the road bodes well for the A's.

It also bodes well for guys like Derek Norris and Nate Freiman, who've seen their playing time drop drastically over the past two weeks with the A's having faced almost exclusively right-handed pitching. Indeed, both of them are in the lineup tonight, along with Chris Young, who's absolutely killing it so far in the second half, hitting .333. OK, so he's 1-for-3, but still. It's a start. Everybody's favorite Athletics Adam Rosales is in the lineup tonight as well -- we'll see how that goes.

Bob Melvin has A.J. Griffin on the hill tonight for the A's. Weirdly, he's going on five days' rest, as opposed to the usual four, but the A's have only played three games between his last start and tonight. It'll be hard for him to improve upon his last performance, a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati in which he walked two batters and struck out seven.

The A's, unfortunately, might struggle from a lack of fan support tonight, since BART isn't running, meaning that public transportation is by and large out of the picture as a way for fans to get to and from the night games during this series. (Capitol Corridor is a great option for the July 4 game if BART is still out of service -- for the others, trains don't run late enough at night.) Read more here.

But for now, the A's seem to have a great opportunity to keep their hot streak going against the NL Central's weakest team and a largely untested starting pitcher. First pitch is at 7:05pm.