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Eight impressive innings went to waste Tuesday night for the White Sox, whose 2-1 loss to the Athletics felt as bitter as their previous 23 losses at McAfee Coliseum dating back to 2001.
Pinch-hitter Todd Walker hit a two-out, game-tying single in the ninth inning, and Mark Ellis' bases-loaded single off the left-field wall (and then the head of leaping left fielder Scott Podsednik) gave the Sox a thumping loss.
"Podsednik's been playing good defense, and that ball was way over his head," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Closer Bobby Jenks suffered his first blown save by allowing four hits to cost the Sox a chance to clinch their first series in Oakland since Aug. 28-30, 2000. Despite eight scoreless innings by starter Jon Garland and Mike MacDougal, the Sox fell to 5-24 in their last 29 games in Oakland.
"Garland pitched a tremendous game," said Guillen, who told his players not to hang their heads after the loss. "It's a shame we couldn't win it for him."
The Sox managed only three hits, yet nearly won as Oakland scored two runs or fewer for the fifth consecutive game.
Jenks' first two pitches resulted in singles by Milton Bradley and Mike Piazza, with Bradley's single up the middle extending his hitting streak against the Sox to 23 games.
Jenks snapped a curve to whiff Eric Chavez for the first out and induced Nick Swisher to fly to left on a full count.
But Walker, batting for Bobby Crosby, hit a single to left to score Bradley. Podsednik's throw sailed well over the head of catcher A.J. Pierzynski and allowed pinch-runner Marco Scutaro to advance to third.
Travis Buck was intentionally walked to set up a force play, but Ellis foiled the strategy.
Garland followed the lead of Jose Contreras and rebounded from his disastrous first start against Cleveland. Although Garland wasn't sharp, he managed to work out of trouble.
His biggest escape act occurred in the bottom of the fifth shortly after being staked to a 1-0 lead. Buck led off by pulling a triple down the right-field line.
But Garland helped his cause by inducing the next two batters to ground back to the mound, and then got Shannon Stewart to fly to right.
Garland threw 91 pitches through five innings, and he started to show signs of fading in the sixth. Piazza hit a line drive that nearly knocked down shortstop Juan Uribe, who managed to hang onto the ball while falling down for the second out.
Chavez followed with another line drive that landed in Garland's glove.
But Garland retired the side in the seventh, and Buck's hit was the last one allowed by Garland in a 113-pitch outing.
Oakland starter Chad Gaudin retired the first nine batters before Podsednik continued his hot hitting with a single to start the fourth. Podsednik stole second but was left stranded as Joe Crede took a called third strike.
The Sox finally scored in the fifth but missed a chance to expand their lead. Alex Cintron, starting in place of injured Tadahito Iguchi, drew a one-out walk. Guillen's decision to give Rob Mackowiak a start paid off, as Mackowiak perfectly executed a hit-and-run single that moved Cintron to third.
Uribe took a wild hack at a high pitch and missed, but then hit another high pitch to right field for a single to score Cintron and move Mackowiak to third.
But that was as far as Mackowiak got, as Podsednik struck out and Darin Erstad grounded to second.