CHICAGO -- Inexpensive on paper, Oakland's pitching staff is rich in depth.
Consider how the A's fared in the time Opening Day starter Brandon McCarthy was sidelined, what with a 28-15 ledger over a span that featured a bevy of superb outings from the club's young squad.
McCarthy was missed, yet not necessarily needed -- at least before Friday, when the righty made his first start since June 19 in place of the injured A.J. Griffin and continued in the same fashion his teammates have been accustomed to in his absence.
The righty's three-run, six-plus inning performance against the host White Sox, his former club, was indeed a respectable one. But in the end not a winning one in a 4-3 A's loss in the three-game series opener.
After McCarthy gave up his third homer of the night before departing with no outs in the seventh to Dayan Viciedo, a game-tying shot to right field, righty reliever Pat Neshek offered up a walk-off home run to Jordan Danks on the first pitch -- marking the outfielder's first career home run -- in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Along with Viciedo, Danks joined A.J. Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez in hitting dingers on a homer-happy night in the Windy City, with three of the four coming on pitch No. 1.
"You don't see that often, but there were four pitches that were hittable pitches, and they took advantage of all of them," manager Bob Melvin said. "This is a very aggressive team and they don't walk a whole lot, so I think our focus was to try to pitch like you had two strikes on them. Mac is a guy that pounds the zone. He pitched well. His stuff was good."
The long ball aside, McCarthy's performance was reminiscent of nearly every one of the other 12 starts he made before his balky right shoulder sidelined him again. The righty was efficient with his pitches, throwing 85, and tallied 60 strikes along the way, garnering quick outs. He walked one and struck out four.
"He just made a couple mistakes and instead of fouling them back or getting underneath them, they made him pay for it, which was unfortunate because I thought he threw the ball well, especially after coming off the DL for so long," catcher Derek Norris said. "I thought he pitched really well."
His own toughest critic, McCarthy slightly disagreed, deeming his performance "just sort of inconsistent."
"In the same way you get rewarded in Oakland pitching, here sometimes they get rewarded by just squaring the ball up a little bit, but those still aren't good pitches," he said. "I wasn't as sharp as I'd like and didn't command as well as I'd like. My cutter wasn't great. Everything just kind of went up and down as the game went along, so it was kind of hard to settle into a comfortable groove. But it was good to get back in the groove."
McCarthy's teammates found themselves in an early one against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, tagging the righty for a run in the first without even recording a hit. After Coco Crisp led off with a walk, Jemile Weeks helped him to second by way of a sacrifice bunt, setting up a steal of third base and an ensuing RBI groundout from Josh Reddick.
Oakland added two more runs in the second, courtesy of a two-run homer off the bat of Brandon Moss, who was making his first career start at designated hitter.
Not ready to slow down, the A's loaded the bases against Floyd in the third, yet they couldn't manage a single run out of the threat, and they would continue to go quietly for the remainder of the game -- even after Floyd's departure following the sixth, before Danks gave his club a walk-off victory the A's are used to celebrating.
"Just a good fastball," Norris said. "For Neshek, he's very deceptive, and if I could go back, I wouldn't change the pitch call, just the location. It was a ball that kind of just crept over the middle, and he put a good swing on it. I thought it was the right pitch to call."
"We got off to a good start, had some momentum," Melvin said, "and the long ball ended up beating us, obviously."