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This isn't exactly what the White Sox had in mind to start the second half of the season.
Hoping to put their troubles in Oakland behind them and put some distance between themselves and the Minnesota Twins, the Sox were shut down Thursday night in a 4-2 loss to the Athletics.
Rich Harden retired the first 13 Sox hitters and allowed only four hits in a career-high eight innings to earn the victory. Jon Garland took the loss in a game that lasted just 2 hours 2 minutes.
"The guys didn't swing the bats the way we expect," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "A couple guys had their timing off with the [All-Star break]."
Magglio Ordonez supplied the only Sox offense with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. It was Ordonez's ninth homer and his first since coming off the disabled list last Friday.
But it was too little too late as the Sox fell for the 14th time in their last 15 games in Oakland. The Sox will play three more games here before going to Texas and Cleveland for eight more.
"The last three games we played well here," Guillen said of Thursday and two games earlier in the season in which the Sox lost in extra innings. "It hasn't shown in the results."
The Sox aren't the only team to struggle in Oakland. The Athletics have the best home record in baseball since 1999 at 291-154. This year they are 28-12.
The A's took a 4-0 lead off Garland with three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
The three-run inning came despite one hitan RBI-double by rookie shortstop Bobby Crosby. Garland opened the inning with back-to-back walks to Scott Hatteberg and Erubiel Durazo with Crosby's double scoring Hatteberg.
Another walk, to Damian Miller, loaded the bases and Eric Byrnes hit what appeared to be a double-play ball to short. But Byrnes was called safe at first and Durazo scored.
The third run came in when Mark Kotsay, who beat the Sox here earlier in the season with a walk-off home run, hit a pop up into short-center field. Timo Perez came in to make a diving backhanded catch and tried to double Byrnes off first.
Perez's throw went into the Sox dugout, though, as first baseman Paul Konerko was between first and home to cut off a throw to the plate. Crosby scored on Perez's error.
"The first two walks killed [Garland]," Guillen said. "After that he threw the ball extremely well."
The A's increased the lead the next inning when Eric Chavez, in his fourth game back after having his wrist broken by a Damaso Marte pitch the last time the Sox were here, hit a home run off Garland.
Garland walked five in seven innings of work.
Meanwhile, the Sox could do nothing with Harden, expected by many to be the next great A's starting pitcher.
Valentin broke up the perfect game with a single in the fifth, but the inning ended when Konerko hit into a double play. Joe Crede singled in the sixth and again the inning ended with a double play, this time off the bat of Sandy Alomar.
The Sox finally broke through in the seventh when Willie Harris led off with a walk and scored on Ordonez's homer.
The loss didn't cost the Sox any ground in the Central Division. They remained a half-game ahead of the Twins, who lost 3-1 at the Royals.
But it still wasn't the kind of start they wanted, especially with Barry Zito on the mound Friday for the A's and All-Star Game starter Mark Mulder going in the finale Sunday.
"Every time you face the Oakland A's staff, it's hard to score runs," Guillen said. "We have to create something."