Oakland (22-21) at Chicago (21-19)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 8:11 pm EDT Mon May 21, 2007
  • TV: KICU, CSN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Jim Thome expects to make his first start for the Chicago White Sox in nearly a month Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics at U.S. Cellular Field.

Thome was activated before the White Sox (21-19) salvaged the finale of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs with a 10-6 victory on Sunday. He made a plate appearance as a pinch hitter, walking and later scoring in the White Sox’s seven-run seventh inning.

The slugger had been out since April 27 due to a strained muscle in his rib cage. Thome was Chicago’s top hitter before the injury, batting .340 with five homers and 10 RBIs in 19 games.

“I’ll throw him right into the fire,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told the team’s official Web site. “He was hitting. We need him. With Jim in the lineup, our lineup is stronger. I think the guys around him in his group will be more relaxed. I think he’ll help us right now.”

The White Sox clearly need Thome back in the lineup. They remain last in the majors with a .226 batting average and have scored an AL-low 160 runs.

Thome should bolster a middle of the order that features struggling Jermaine Dye (.219) and Paul Konerko (.201). Dye homered and Konerko had two hits and scored twice to help key Sunday’s victory.

Chicago avoided its first three-game sweep, and may have responded to some criticism from general manager Kenny Williams before the contest.

“It’s not about the talent,” Williams said. “This is about playing, to a greater degree, up to our capabilities. … We need to start picking it up now and start playing like the team that we’re capable of playing.”

The White Sox are 4 1/2 games behind leaders Cleveland and Detroit in the AL Central.

Oakland (22-21) is one of just four AL teams with a winning road record at 11-9. The A’s are beginning a six-game road trip after splitting a 10-game homestand.

“We’re not capable of throwing six or seven games together right now,” said third baseman Eric Chavez after a 4-1 loss to San Francisco on Sunday. “Once we get healthy, we’ll be able to do that. We’ll pull it together.”

Oakland starter Joe Blanton (4-1, 3.32 ERA) is 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA over his last four outings, and has pitched at least seven innings in five straight. On Wednesday, the right-hander lasted eight innings and gave up two runs and five hits, but the A’s bullpen blew a one-run lead in a 4-3 loss to Kansas City.

Blanton is facing the White Sox for the second time in his career. He beat them last Sept. 17, allowing two runs over five innings in a 5-4 victory.

After compiling a 6.16 ERA over his first four starts of the season, White Sox right-hander Jose Contreras (3-4, 3.64) has settled down to post a 1.93 ERA in his last four outings, although he has alternated wins and losses during that stretch. Contreras gave up four runs - two earned - in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday as the White Sox split a doubleheader.

He is 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in six career starts versus the Athletics, including a 4-1 win at Oakland on April 9, when he limited the A’s to one run over six innings.

Chicago took two of three games in that series.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Blanton LAA vs. J. Contreras Tex
14-10 Record 10-17
3.95 ERA 5.57
140 K 113
40 BB 62
1.22 WHIP 1.56

Scoreboard

Monday, May 21