A's grind out win over White Sox

A's grind out win over White Sox

CHICAGO -- While feverishly digging their way out of the hole created by a miserable May, the A's spent a lot of time late in their red-hot June talking about getting back to .500 before the All-Star break.

Remarkably, they managed to do it a few days ahead of schedule. Fifteen below the break-even mark on May 29, they got shortstop Bobby Crosby back on May 30 and went on a 24-9 tear that brought them to 41-41 after a 13-inning win in Toronto on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays bounced back to beat them on Wednesday and Thursday, though, and had the A's dropped the Friday opener of a three-game series with the White Sox here, they'd have been guaranteed a sub-.500 first half.

Fittingly, Crosby had two huge hits in a 4-2 victory that pulled Oakland back to within a game of .500 with two to play before the break.

"What Bobby has meant to this club can't be overstated," said A's manager Ken Macha. "He's been a huge part of us turning things around here."

In addition to a two-out RBI double in the third inning and another RBI double in the fifth, Crosby turned in a beautiful dig-and-throw from deep in the hole in the seventh inning to help keep Chicago at bay.

All-Star reliever Justin Duchscherer and rookie closer Huston Street did the rest of the heavy lifting from there. Duchscherer worked a perfect eighth and was thrilled to hand the two-run lead to Street, who shook off a one-out single in the ninth and struck out slugger Frank Thomas to end the game.

Asked how much confidence he has in Street, a 2004 draftee who spent last spring pitching for the University of Texas, Duchscherer laughed.

"Are you kidding me? The guy's amazing," he said. "He was pitching in college last year. It took me eight years to get here!"

Street's a decent bet to follow in Crosby's 2004 American League Rookie of the Year footsteps, but he might have some stiff competition if outfielder Nick Swisher continues to improve. Swisher also had two big doubles Friday to lift his average on the road trip to .412 (7-for-17), and in the bottom of the sixth he made a defensive play that A's starting pitcher Kirk Saarloos called one of the keys to his fourth victory in five decisions.

With one out and the A's up, 3-1, Timo Perez singled down the right-field line and tried to turn it into a double. Bad idea. Swisher barehanded the ball and threw a strike to Crosby that just beat Perez to the bag.

"That was a really great play," said Saarloos, who gave up two runs on seven hits over six-plus innings. "He gets to second base and the tying run's at the plate with one out. Instead it's two outs, nobody on. It was huge."

Said Macha: "You take a look around and you'll see a lot of contributions all around from our young guys. That's very encouraging."

Along those lines, Macha also said he hadn't given much thought to Friday's game being important in relation to .500.

"I'm not worried about that," he offered. "There's a lot more games to be played no matter where we are at the All-Star break."

Added third baseman Eric Chavez: "No matter where we are at the break, I think we've done some pretty great things just to give ourselves a chance heading into the second half."

First baseman Scott Hatteberg suggested that Friday's game had a far different feel than it might have a month or so ago. In the dark days of May, consecutive losses to close a series would have caused considerable consternation. Not so now.

"Those two losses in Toronto, I don't think they affected anyone's confidence in this room at all, and that's such a big difference from where we were earlier in the year," Hatteberg said. "Before, we'd lose two and have no idea how we were gonna pull the next one out. Now, we have as much confidence as you can imagine.

"It really doesn't matter what the record says at this point. We're playing like we're well over .500, and if you think like that and play like that, well, that's where you're going to be sooner or later."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.