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West-leading A's take Garland out of comfort zone

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- When Ozzie Guillen learned that alcohol
is banned after games in the Coliseum clubhouses these days, the
Chicago White Sox manager responded with profanity and anger.

His club couldn't muster nearly that much passion during the
actual game -- and the Oakland Athletics beat Jon Garland to give
another boost to their playoff chase.

Esteban Loaiza outpitched Garland with seven innings of
three-hit ball, and the A's opened a key homestand with a 4-2
victory over the White Sox on Friday night.

Marco Scutaro had a career-high four hits and Mark Kotsay hit a
run-scoring triple as the first-place A's produced just enough
offense to back Loaiza's fourth straight outstanding start at the
Coliseum. Oakland also maintained its five-game lead over Los
Angeles in the AL West despite going 0-for-16 with runners in
scoring position.

Oakland was forced to generate its runs with smarts and
resourcefulness, and manager Ken Macha's team showed plenty of
both.

"There is a lot on the line in this series," Macha said. "I'm
sure they looked up there and saw Detroit won and Minnesota lost,
and we paid attention to the Angels winning. That's what the end of
September does."

The White Sox remained two games behind Minnesota in the
wild-card race, but dropped four games behind Detroit in the AL
Central chase.

Chicago had plenty of frustration after the game, and not just
because its hitters couldn't solve Loaiza. Guillen was stunned by
the A's postgame beer ban, which has been in place since midseason
following Loaiza's arrest on suspicion of drunk driving.

"He doesn't run my club. I run my club," the mercurial manager
said of A's general manager Billy Beane while complaining loudly
within earshot of reporters.

Garland (17-5) lost for just the second time in 18 starts,
yielding nine hits and three runs in 5 2-3 rocky innings -- his
shortest start since July 29. Guillen touted Garland's candidacy
for the AL Cy Young Award before the game, but his ace
right-hander, who was 13-1 since June 8, never got comfortable in
chilly Oakland.

"I didn't have much, to tell the truth," Garland said. "I did
it to myself. I should be able to throw strike one, and wasn't able
to do it. I couldn't get my breaking ball over for a strike. (In)
32 starts, you're not going to have it all the time."

Loaiza (10-8) was outstanding in his first start against the
White Sox since leaving the club after the 2004 season. He retired
16 of Chicago's first 17 batters, yielding only Rob Mackowiak's
solo homer in the third, and escaped his only jam in the sixth with
just one run allowed.

"That's a great team, but we were playing strong and I felt
really good, especially at the end," Loaiza said.

Joe Kennedy and Justin Duchscherer struck out the side in the
eighth, and Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 33rd save in 41
chances.

Nick Swisher and Mark Ellis hit consecutive sacrifice flies in
the fourth inning for the A's, who finish the season with 17 games
in 17 days, including this 10-game homestand.

After a slow adjustment to the A's, Loaiza has been the
dependable starter Oakland needed during its playoff push, going
5-0 in seven strong appearances before getting pounded at Tampa Bay
last Saturday.

Loaiza and fellow starters Joe Blanton and Dan Haren have 10
wins apiece since June 8 -- and Barry Zito, who has nine wins in
that span, could join them with a victory Saturday. Combined with
standout defense, the A's have been able to win without big hits.

"We've really been below-average in hitting," said Eric
Chavez, who went 0-for-2 but scored the go-ahead run. "Defense and
pitching has been the name of the game for us."

Loaiza retired Chicago's first seven hitters before Mackowiak's
homer. Oakland tied it later in the third inning when Scutaro beat
out an infield single and scored on a triple by Kotsay, who
returned to the lineup after missing the just-concluded six-game
trip with back problems.

The A's put at least one runner in scoring position in each of
Garland's last five innings. Garland left with his head down in the
sixth after two more Oakland hits.

"Tough decision to make, to take him out," Guillen said.
"This kid has a chance to win 20 games, but I had to think about
getting the team a win. ... If you don't throw a strike against
these guys, you get in trouble. All of a sudden, you're in the
fifth inning and you have 100 pitches."

Game notes
A's DH Frank Thomas' second-inning double against his
former team was the 952nd extra-base hit of his career, tying him
with Mickey Mantle for 37th place on baseball's career list. ...
A's RHP Rich Harden will throw a simulated game Saturday, the
latest step in his quest to return to the mound for the first time
since early June. ... Kotsay's back spasms had kept him out of 17
of the A's previous 34 games.