How it happened: The Cubs were a team in need of a pick-me-up victory Tuesday, and they sure seemed primed for one. They held a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth before lefty reliever James Russell served up a three-run homer to Derek Norris that put the A’s ahead to stay in front of 17,273 fans at O.co Coliseum, a decent portion of whom were wearing Cubbies blue. Considering the Cubs traded starting pitcher Scott Feldman earlier in the day – signaling that other top players will also be sent packing before the trade deadline -- it would have been a morale booster to at least take the opener against the defending A.L. West champs. The Cubs banged out 13 hits and hung seven runs on Oakland starter A.J. Griffin over 5 2/3 innings, impressive considering Griffin threw a shutout against the Reds in his previous outing. But Chicago let two leads slip away. They also led 5-3 after their five-run rally in the fourth, when they batted around and got a three-run homer from Alfonso Soriano. Adding insult to injury, the Cubs put the leadoff man on base in the ninth, but Luis Valbuena was thrown out at second as part of a strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out double play. Chicago starter Chris Rusin, a last-minute replacement for Feldman, gave up three runs in just 3 1/3 innings. But Rusin was pitching on three days’ rest, so he was on a strict pitch count. He allowed homers to Josh Donaldson and Chris Young.
What it means: The Cubs have won four of their last five series, but their bullpen could not slam the door Tuesday night. Not that wins and losses will mean a whole lot the rest of the way. It’s about the future, and the Cubs must decide if Rusin, who made his first major league start of the season, is the man to fill the shoes of the departed Feldman (at least until Carlos Villanueva builds his pitch count enough to join the rotation). Soriano continues swinging a hot bat on this road trip, fueling more speculation on whether he might be traded.
Outside the box: Designated hitter Dioner Navarro went 3 for 4, and Chicago DH’s are now 12 for 27 this season. … The Cubs fell to 6-39 when they allow four or more runs.
Up next: Assuming he’s still Cubs property by Wednesday night, right-hander Matt Garza will oppose Oakland’s Bartolo Colon in a 7:05 p.m. game. Garza (3-1, 3.82) declined comment Tuesday on his name being heavily involved in trade rumors. Colon (11-2, 2.79) has won eight straight starts, one off the Oakland record for consecutive starts with a victory.