Athletics 5, White Sox 1
Zito pitched seven strong innings for his first win in seven starts, and Jermaine Dye hit a three-run homer in the A’s 5-1 victory Friday night.
With Zito in top form and Dye propelling the offense, Oakland beat Chicago at the Coliseum for the 15th time in 16 games. Neither team can explain the A’s dominance of a talented opponent—but most of the credit for this victory went to Zito.
Zito (5-7) allowed four hits while working quickly and confidently, showing no ill effects from his hard-luck losses and inconsistency this season. The A’s scored exactly one run in his previous two starts, and the 2002 AL Cy Young award winner was 0-4 since a victory over Cincinnati on June 8.
“You’ve got to put the past behind you, but I learned a lot of lessons in the first half,” Zito said. “My last five starts have felt really good out there, actually—pretty good pace, pretty good rhythm. Sometimes the outcomes make people think different, but the process still feels good.”
Zito spent the All-Star break in San Diego, attempting to extend the progress he made in his previous starts. He also worked on a new mental attitude, blocking out the negative media attention surrounding his struggles.
“In this game, sometimes we feel like how we’re performing defines who we are as a person,” Zito said. “There’s so much scrutiny, and I think that every guy deals with that. It’s good to get away from that and realize that this is just a job. It’s not who you are.”
Zito didn’t allow a runner past first base after the second inning. Four relievers finished up, with Octavio Dotel picking up his fourth save in six chances after Chad Bradford allowed consecutive singles in the ninth.
“The break helped him,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said of Zito. “He got some strikeouts on a changeup. He had his fastball working. I thought he was tremendous, a lot better than his last game out there.”
Dye had three hits and Marco Scutaro had an RBI double for the A’s, who have won 22 of their last 25 at home.
In the first inning, Eric Byrnes and Eric Chavez singled against Mark Buehrle (9-3) before Dye’s 17th homer of the season barely cleared the fence in the right-field corner. The shot ended a 5-for-33 slump for Dye, who has three homers in four games against the White Sox this season.
“It seems like every time we’re here, we don’t start with a lead, and we can’t get it,” Buehrle said. “I honestly didn’t think (Dye’s homer) was getting out of here. It’s just one of those things where the wind picked up or something, and carried it over the wall.”
Oakland added another run in the second when Bobby Crosby doubled and scored on Scutaro’s hit down the left-field line.
Buehrle settled down during his six innings of work, but couldn’t overcome his early struggles—and the lack of run support. He’s gotten 8.2 runs per game this season. He yielded nine hits and two walks in just his second loss in 16 starts.
The White Sox gave another dismal performance in Oakland, but remained in first place in the AL Central thanks to another loss by Minnesota. Chicago leads the Twins by a half-game.
“It’s frustrating. We just don’t hit the way we should out here,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It’s getting old. We need to get it done, and we’re not getting it done.”
More than 40,000 fans packed the Coliseum, anticipating a postgame fireworks show. … The White Sox also got bad news shortly before the game: Designated hitter Frank Thomas will miss eight weeks with a broken bone in his left foot. The team originally thought Thomas’ injury was only inflammation in his ankle, but an MRI exam revealed a stress fracture. … Esteban Loaiza will start for Chicago in Sunday’s series finale. Guillen waited until Friday to decide.