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Big Hurt, bullpen meltdown doom White Sox vs. A's

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Forget AL Comeback Player of the Year,
Frank Thomas is making a case for MVP.

Thomas hit his 37th home run, passed the 100-RBI mark and helped
Oakland beat his former team, leading the Athletics over the
Chicago White Sox 7-4 Saturday.

"To us he's definitely the MVP," A's second baseman Mark Ellis
said. "It's hard to argue with Jermaine [Dye], but as far as
importance a team? I think Frank is more important to this team
than others are to their teams. Yes, I'd vote for him."

Thomas drove in four runs for the AL West-leading A's, who won
their third in a row. Thomas has 485 career homers and has 102 RBI
mark the 11th time in his career that he's reached the century
mark.

"I never stopped believing in myself," Thomas said.
"Everybody else in baseball may have, but I trusted my doctor. He
said I would be back. This is very special. I was hitting .175-.180
after two months and to turn it on, I'm proud of myself."

Thomas was limited to 108 games over the past two seasons,
hitting a total of 30 homers and driving in 75. After the White Sox
let him go, there was some bad blood between him and the
organization. He signed an incentive-laden contract with the A's in
January.

"It's really bittersweet," Thomas said. "I look at the
uniform I wore for 16 years and it's kind of weird. I'm all about
winning right now. We have a special chance to reach the playoffs.
We've won a lot of games where we've shaken our heads asking how.
But that's what playoff teams are all about."

Dye hit his 42nd home run for Chicago, which fell three games
behind Minnesota in the AL wild-card race.

The White Sox lost for the 22nd time in their last 26 games in
Oakland. Javier Vazquez had his winless streak extended to seven
games despite departing with a lead.

The A's rallied for four runs in the seventh against four White
Sox relievers, taking advantage of four walks.

"I was disappointed," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
"The Thomas home run changed the whole scenario and our bullpen
couldn't do its job. They couldn't throw strikes. Frank is one of
the best right-handed hitters I ever saw."

Barry Zito (16-9) struggled all day, walking a career-high
seven, He gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings, and
won for the fourth time in five decisions.

Joe Kennedy and Justin Duchscherer pitched the eighth and Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 42 opportunities.

"Frank has been a huge factor in our success," Zito said. "We
see him in the clubhouse every day and you can't help but be
inspired by his work ethic. He expects to carry the team and to hit
the ball hard. I know he's our MVP."

Ellis singled home the tying run in the seventh against reliever
Mike MacDougal, who blew his first save opportunity. Matt Thornton
(5-3) allowed two runs in the seventh.

MacDougal walked Thomas to force in the go-ahead run and Boone Logan walked Eric Chavez to force in another run. Jay Payton
followed with an RBI single off Dustin Hermanson.

"I wasn't good and that's about all you can say about it,"
MacDougal said. "I couldn't locate my pitches where I needed."

Vazquez, 0-3 in his last seven starts, allowed three runs and
five hits over six innings.

Pablo Ozuna doubled to lead off the Chicago third. After
Tadahito Iguchi popped up trying to bunt, Dye worked the count full
against Zito before hitting a line drive off the left-field foul
pole.

It was Dye's first homer since nearly hitting for the cycle
against the Cleveland Indians last Saturday.

Thomas' sacrifice fly in the fourth cut the lead to 2-1 but
Sandy Alomar Jr. singled behind Juan Uribe's single and Brian Anderson's double in the sixth to make it 4-1.

In the sixth, Thomas hit Vazquez's 1-1 pitch into the left field
bleachers to make it 4-3.

"That home run changed the whole momentum of the game," Ellis
said. "We jumped on that and got it going."

Game notes
A's RHP Rich Harden tested his sore right elbow in a
simulated game and will start on Thursday pending the outcome of
Monday's side session. ... Dye snapped a 23 at-bat homerless
streak. He averages a home run every 11.9 at bats. ... A's OF Mark
Kotsay was held out of the starting lineup after reporting a stiff
back following Friday night's game.