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Thomas puts hurt on former team's playoff hopes

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Frank Thomas couldn't take part in
Chicago's World Series run a year ago. Now he's doing his best to
prevent the White Sox from making a bid for a second straight
title.

Thomas dealt another big blow to his former team's dwindling
playoff hopes, hitting a three-run homer Sunday to help the Oakland
Athletics beat Chicago 5-4.

"He had good at-bats and lifted their team a couple of times,"
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's a guy when he's
swinging the bat he's dangerous. He's one of the best hitters I've
ever seen. I think the big difference between winning and losing
was Frank."

Thomas homered twice and drove in seven runs in the final two
games of Oakland's three-game sweep. Chicago fell four games behind
Minnesota in the wild-card race and remained five games behind AL
Central-leading Detroit.

With only two weeks remaining, time is running short for the
White Sox. They open a seven-game homestand Monday against Detroit
and end the season with three games in Minnesota.

"We still get to play the teams in our division," outfielder
Jermaine Dye said. "As long as you have that, you still have a
chance. We have to come out at our place and win at least five
games and hopefully we can do that. Then we need to go on the road
and do what we're capable of doing."

Thomas had a bitter breakup after spending the first 16 seasons
of his stellar career in Chicago, feuding with general manager Ken
Williams after the White Sox decided to cut ties with the Big Hurt.

Thomas turned those hurt feelings into a golden opportunity in
Oakland, where he is leading the A's on their playoff push. Oakland
moved seven games ahead of Los Angeles in the AL West after the
Angels lost 8-1 at Texas.

Oakland struggled the past two Septembers, losing out on the
division race to the Angels both times. But with Thomas leading the
charge this season, the A's are in great shape to return to the
playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Thomas is batting .344 with a major league-leading 10 homers and
26 RBI this month. He has 38 homers and 105 RBI on the season,
after missing large chunks of the past two years with injuries.

"After the start I had, it feels good just to be sitting here
at the end of the season," said Thomas, who was batting .178
through his first 34 games. "I found my swing and found my game."

Chicago broke out to a 2-0 lead against Joe Blanton (16-11)
before Thomas erased it with one swing in the fourth inning. With
runners on second and third and one out and the struggling Eric
Chavez on deck, Guillen decided to pitch to Thomas.

Thomas fell behind 0-2 before working the count full against
Jose Contreras (13-8). He then connected for his 486th career
homer, a three-run drive that gave Oakland the lead. Thomas is
7-for-19 with four homers and nine RBI in six games against
Chicago.

"When he gets in a situation when there's a big hit needed more
than likely he's going to come through," A's center fielder Mark
Kotsay said. "The confidence is there. He's swinging the bat well.
He's stepped up for us all season."

Milton Bradley added an RBI single in the fifth and Mark Ellis
hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth for Oakland. Blanton allowed two
runs and eight hits in five innings.

Chicago scored twice in the seventh against Brad Halsey on a
wild pitch and an RBI groundout by Jim Thome to cut it to 5-4.
Justin Duchscherer pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 11
chances.

The White Sox had their chances but failed to score after
loading the bases with one out in the first and fifth innings. In
the first, Joe Crede hit a fly to Kotsay, who threw a one-hop
strike to Jason Kendall to nail Ross Gload at the plate for the
double play.

In the fifth, Blanton struck out Crede and retired A.J.
Pierzynski on an infield popup to preserve the 3-2 lead.

"We had our chances," Dye said. "We had the bases loaded a
couple of times and we just couldn't come up with that one hit."

Chicago scored twice in the second on Pierzynski's leadoff homer
Scott Podsednik's two-out RBI single.

Game notes
Contreras allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings.
... Oakland is 23-4 at home against the White Sox since 2001. ...
Chicago's Nos. 3, 4, and 5 hitters went 4-for-32 in the series.