CHICAGO -- It's time the offense starts helping out the pitching staff, the A's keep saying.
The hitters kept to their word recently, upping their production to aide their consistent friends on the mound in a winning second half.
But on Sunday, when righty Bartolo Colon needed the support most, he got very little, instead watching his teammates strike out 13 times and pick up as many runs as they did errors in a 7-3 defeat to Chicago, leaving the A's with just their second series loss since the end of June.
White Sox starter Chris Sale, who hasn't lost a game against an American League West team this year (6-0 in seven starts), was responsible for 11 of the strikeouts, spanning 6 2/3 innings. Solo home runs from Jonny Gomes and Adam Rosales marked the only damage off the lefty by Oakland, which also got a long ball from Derek Norris in the ninth.
Missing, though, was a tidy defensive effort.
"Just baseball mistakes," as Gomes described it.
Shortstop Cliff Pennington made two throwing errors, the second of which helped the White Sox jump on the board first in the second inning. With no outs and Alejandro De Aza on first, Colon induced a ground ball from Gordon Beckham that Pennington threw behind Jemile Weeks at second base, allowing De Aza to reach third and score on Adam Dunn's ensuing sacrifice fly.
"Whether or not it was between he and Weeks, it looked like a double-play ball to start," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I don't know if Weeksy was a little late getting there -- that may have affected where he threw the ball -- but certainly we need to get one out. When the ball was hit, I thought it was two."
Gomes' sixth-inning home run -- his third in as many games and sixth since the All-Star break -- knotted the game, but the White Sox responded in the bottom half of the inning with five earned runs off Colon, who hadn't allowed any since July 22.
A.J. Pierzynski's two-run homer highlighted the inning, and RBI hits from Dewayne Wise and Beckham followed, as Colon departed with two outs in the frame. The veteran, tagged for six runs (five earned), hadn't offered up more than four in two months.
"They were making better contact, seeing the ball better," Colon said through translator Ariel Prieto. "Too many fastballs in that inning. Everyone knows I'm a fastball pitcher. Some were a bit up, and they were looking for it."
"Bartolo had been throwing me inside in the first two at-bats," Pierzynski said. "My first at-bat, I got jammed and my second at-bat, I hit a line drive on a ball in. And then I just kind of sold my soul and said, 'You know what? I'm going to look for something up and out over the plate away.' I hit it and luckily it had just enough to get out where [Yoenis] Cespedes couldn't catch it."
The White Sox catcher was involved in more drama in the seventh, as were Oakland's defensive woes.
Pierzynski, running on the pitch, scored from first base on Alexei Ramirez's groundout that both Pennington and third baseman Adam Rosales went after, with nobody in green and gold manning home plate.
"Wasn't our best defensive day," Melvin said. "The play was embarrassing, obviously, when Pierzynski went all the way around. [Catcher] Norris is trying to cover third when the third baseman and shortstop converge, you either have to read that and get back or the pitcher has to rotate around and get home. We didn't cover that very well, so that doesn't sit very well with anybody."
Despite the 1-2 start to their six-game road swing, the A's have to be happy about their 15-10 showing against teams above .500, as they enter a stretch of nine games against teams below break-even.
"You knew this stretch was coming," Melvin said. "We tried not to treat it like that, we tried to look it as three games in a series. That's what we'll continue to do. It doesn't mean because we're not playing teams above .500 coming up that you're going to play better. You have to keep grinding, you have to keep the intensity. It's good we did play well against these teams. You should gain some confidence from that, but you have to continue to play well."