White Sox 4, Athletics 1
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Jose Contreras wanted nothing more than to put his debacle from opening day in the past.
He looked like a different pitcher this time—and Chicago’s offense gave him just enough support in a tough challenge against Rich Harden.
Contreras bounced back from an awful, one-inning outing April 2 to pitch six effective innings as Chicago snapped a four-game losing streak in the Coliseum with only its fifth win in 28 tries in the Athletics’ stadium since 2001.
“Wow,” Podsednik said of Contreras’ timely turnaround. “You need a good performance from your starting pitcher when you’re facing a guy like Harden. He pitched his tail off.”
The White Sox beat Harden a day after losing to Twins ace Johan Santana— handing the A’s their first defeat with the hard-throwing right-hander on the mound in his last 12 regular-season starts.
Thome led off the fourth with a home run and added an insurance RBI single in the eighth. Podsednik hit his first home run since July 23 against Texas and first on the road since May 15 at Minnesota. He also doubled and singled as both players finished 3-for-4, and Jermaine Dye added a sacrifice fly.
Harden (1-1), limited to nine starts in 2006 because of two stints on the disabled list, hadn’t lost since Aug. 9, 2005, and Oakland hadn’t dropped a game in which he started since Aug. 14 that year to Minnesota. He was the losing pitcher in Game 3 of the AL championship series last October in Detroit.
Contreras (1-1) was coming off the second-shortest start of his career, lasting just one inning and allowing eight runs and seven hits against the Indians on opening day April 2. He yielded one run and four hits, struck out four and walked four A’s hitters.
“After opening up on opening day the way I did, I needed it for my psyche,” Contreras said through a translator. “I located my fastball much better. That was the difference.”
Mike MacDougal and Matt Thornton combined to pitch 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief, and Bobby Jenks finished in his first career appearance in Oakland— the last AL park in which the right-hander hadn’t pitched.
White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen was relishing the rare victory in Oakland, though still frustrated with the A’s alcohol-free clubhouse that has been dry since last season.
“We never do that,” he said after coming out to the clubhouse to hang with his team. “It’s weird to win here the first time in 20 years and not have a beer to celebrate. … Jose definitely needed one like this.”
Contreras loaded the bases in the third, giving up Jason Kendall’s leadoff walk before Mike Piazza’s two-out single and a walk to Eric Chavez. Then Nick Swisher flied out to end the threat. That was the first of eight straight retired Oakland batters by the right-hander.
Harden didn’t throw many first-pitch strikes and labored through six innings, getting Joe Crede to ground into an inning-ending double play on his 102nd and final pitch of the game.
“They try to take me deep in the count, foul pitches off,” Harden said. “That’s a tough team to put away. It was one of those I had to fight through.”
Oakland’s starters came in with a 1.91 ERA through their first seven games. Harden gave up five hits, struck out six and walked two.
Rookie Travis Buck hit a two-out RBI double in the second for the defending AL West champion A’s, who managed little else. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the sixth, but Buck struck out.
“We’ll be better,” Oakland’s Mark Ellis said. “We had our chances but it seemed like we always had those chances with two outs. If we could have mustered something a little earlier, it would have been great.”
Piazza, the A’s new designated hitter, received a warm reception in his first game in front of the home crowd since taking over DH duties from departed slugger Frank Thomas, who led the team in home runs and RBIs in 2006.
Milton Bradley’s eighth-inning infield single gave him a 22-game hitting streak against the White Sox. … White Sox LHP Mark Buehrle is slated to start Wednesday afternoon’s series finale, but Guillen will be careful with the pitcher, who is nursing a sore throwing arm. “We’ll keep eyes close on him,” Guillen said. “I worry about him getting tight.” Buehrle was hit in the left forearm by a line drive off the bat of Cleveland’s Ryan Garko on Thursday, forcing him out of the game in the second inning. … The game drew a sellout crowd of 35,077.