"Best feeling ever," Carter said.
For the first 11 games of his big league career, Carter played exclusively on the road, going 0-for-32 along the way. But in his third career plate appearance at the Oakland Coliseum, Carter drilled a 2-2 pitch from Chicago reliever Scott Linebrink into left field.
Carter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Gabe Gross upon reaching first base, but received a warm welcome to the dugout. A's bench coach Tye Waller eventually got a hold of the ball, while one of Carter's teammates also threw a decoy ball into the crowd.
"I feel like part of the team," Carter said. "I got [the ball]. They colored and did everything they could to it."
Carter, the organization's top power-hitting prospect, went 0-for-19 in his first stint with the A's in August before being sent back down to Triple-A Sacramento. Given the high expectations surrounding Carter, his slump seemed to be magnified.
So to start his second stint with an 0-for-14 slide, Carter's ear-to-ear smile Monday was a long time in the making.
"It started getting kind of stressful," Carter said. "But I got the monkey off my back and hopefully this gets me going."
The A's then capitalized on Carter's hit, as Cliff Pennington hustled down the line to reach on an infield error before Rajai Davis laid down a picturesque bunt -- something he's had trouble doing all year -- to load the bases. That all set the stage for Daric Barton's RBI fielder's choice, which scored Gross from third base and broke a scoreless tie.
Three batters later, Kurt Suzuki delivered a two-run single to right field to bring the game to its final margin.
"Suzuki had a real nice night," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He's been struggling a little bit the last month and he's had some flashes like he was coming out of it, but when he starts lining balls up the middle over the second baseman's head like he did today, then everything in his swing is working correctly."
Before Gavin Floyd could even complete one at-bat, the dynamic of the contest changed drastically. That's because Chicago's righty was lifted from the game after seven pitches due to tightness in the back of his right shoulder, something he felt since his previous start.
Right-hander Tony Pena relieved Floyd and turned in a six-inning shutout. Not bad for a last-second replacement. All told, Pena gave up six hits and two walks while striking out three.
"It's a little bit of an interesting scenario when you get ready for somebody that we faced before [and he leaves the game]," Geren said.
Gio Gonzalez matched Pena's scoreless effort frame for frame, but left with a no-decision. Gonzalez (14-9) finished six innings, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out seven, but couldn't become Oakland's second 15-game winner alongside Trevor Cahill.
The southpaw, who turned 25 on Sunday, was largely effective but struggled with his command in the fourth inning. After getting two quick outs to start the frame, Gonzalez issued three consecutive walks before striking out Ramon Castro on three pitches to get out of the jam.
It was the latest example of Gonzalez's mental development, as he may have reacted differently in years past.
"I would have probably lost it and try to do more than what I should have done," Gonzalez said. "The new Gio Gonzalez -- I'm not going to use myself as third person -- the new me has definitely made a huge change."
White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen noticed, too.
"He's come a long way," Guillen said "This kid threw a lot of strikes. Gio's always got confidence in himself. He always wants to be good; ever since high school he wants to be good, he wants to be noticed, he wants people to talk about him. I think the difference now is he's obviously matured and he throws more strikes."
Following Gonzalez, Boof Bonser pitched a scoreless seventh to receive his first victory since June 4, 2008. After Michael Wuertz tossed a shutout eighth inning, Craig Breslow nailed the coffin to pick up his third save of the year.
After the contest, Geren said A's closer Andrew Bailey was unavailable due to elbow soreness. Bailey said he will see renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews sometime this week, but that he hopes to return before the season ends. Oakland has 13 games remaining.
"I've been hurt a little bit this year," Bailey said. "We just want to be precautious with this and see what the doctor says."