OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Cubs manager Joe Maddon thought Jorge Soler might get a jolt out of returning to the majors after spending two months recovering from a nagging hamstring injury, including a two-week stint in the minors.
Boy, was Maddon right.
Soler hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat after being activated off the disabled list, Jon Lester pitched seven strong innings and Chicago beat the Oakland Athletics, 7-2, on Friday night.
“Sometimes a guy just needs to show up and then he gets the adrenaline going on, and that was a big hit,” Maddon said. “I didn’t think it was high enough to go out. It was out so quickly.”
Dexter Fowler also homered while Javier Baez added a two-run double to help Chicago win its fifth straight. The Cubs also improved to a major league-best 67-41.
Lester (12-4) pitched for the A’s over the final two months of the 2014 season after getting traded from Boston. He returned to the Coliseum for the first time since then and faced a distinctly different Oakland team than the one he left.
“Any time you’ve been on the home side and come back as a visitor it’s different,” said Lester, who had eight strikeouts, and allowed two runs on nine hits.
“I enjoyed pitching here. I wish it turned out a little different but I was with a good team and great fans. It’s unbelievable to come here as a home player as opposed to a visitor.”
Soler, out since June 6 with a hamstring injury, celebrated his return to the majors with his home run in the first inning off A’s starter Dillon Overton (1-3).
That capped a four-run burst by the Cubs that included Fowler’s fifth game-opening home run this season.
Soler also reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on Baez’s double in the third. Jason Heyward added an RBI single in the inning to help extend Chicago’s lead to 7-0.
“I wasn’t feeling any pressure, I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball,” Soler said through an interpreter. “I was a little bit frustrated being out at least two months but I just wanted to keep the positive attitude and come here and try to do my best.”
Brett Eibner, called up from the minors earlier in the day, homered against Lester leading off the sixth for Oakland. Marcus Semien added an RBI single.
ROOKIE ROUGHED UP
Overton allowed seven runs in three innings but suffered his third consecutive loss. The rookie left-hander is winless since beating the Los Angeles Angels in his major league debut June 25. “Believe it or not I was actually hitting my spots better tonight,” Overton said. “They were just hitting everything I threw. You’re going to have days like that. You just have to work with it and keep grounded.”
Cubs: Maddon said the plan is to ease Soler back in and get him some defensive work in the outfield before the team faces another NL team on Aug. 11. … RHP Joe Nathan was designated for assignment. The 41-year-old was 1-0 in three appearances with the Chicago.
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (12-5) pitches the middle game of the series at the Coliseum. The Chicago ace has lost three straight decisions.
Athetics: RHP Sonny Gray (5-10) has won only twice in 11 starts since coming off the disabled list. Gray has a 5.57 ERA over that span.
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