OAKLAND -- One run proved to be the difference in Oakland's 4-3 loss to the White Sox on Friday. At least that's the way the box score reads.
But any member of the A's, particularly Coco Crisp, will likely say the disparity came not just in the form of one run but, rather, one fraction of a second.
That's all Crisp needed, really, to make it a different ballgame and collect his first straight steal of home in 10 Major League seasons.
Manning third with two outs in the eighth, with the A's down a run and Conor Jackson at the plate against Chicago lefty Matt Thornton, Crisp stood close to famed speedster third baseman Omar Vizquel, a former teammate whom Crisp felt seeping into his mind.
"He already knew," Crisp maintained.
Still, the A's outfielder noticed Thornton's lack of attention and slow pitching motion, both of which led to his self-created green light to make a run for it on a 0-1 pitch.
"Just out of the corner of my eye I saw the white jersey over there getting down the line a little more," Humber said. "As soon as I started my windup, I saw him break. Just kind of sped up and made sure I got the ball there quickly."
Crisp raced down the line, Thornton's four-seamer quickly making its way to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who grabbed hold of the high pitch before lunging forward just in time to make the tag.
"I kind of got out there far enough to make it, but my timing was off," Crisp admitted. "Omar was so close and I didn't want to get picked off, so I sort of stutter-stepped instead of just going ahead and going through with it. That's what made it close in his favor and not mine."
Crisp had successfully converted such a play in the Minors and hinted at multiple times in high school.
"It would have been nice to be safe up here, too, but I wasn't," he said. "I was trying to make something happen. I told [third-base coach Mike Gallego], 'I can make it,' and I still believe I could have made it without that stutter-step. If you're going to have the huevos to do it, you might as well go through with it."
Crisp has a team-leading 10 stolen bases this season and is coming off a 2010 campaign that brought about a career-high 32 stolen bags in just 75 games -- numbers that have granted him rare permission by manager Bob Geren to deem himself capable of a steal.
"He's a guy, one of a few guys I've managed, that I let have a green light pretty much any time he gets on," Geren said. "His success rate last year was so good that he kind of earned that.
"I didn't know he would take off for home right there. I just watched it over, and he was out by about six inches. It's one of those plays that if he's out, it's a tough way to end an inning with a good hitter up. If he's safe, it's one of the most exciting plays in baseball."
"If I go again," Crisp said, "I'm going to make it."
Until then, the A's will have to settle with Friday's outcome, which by no means was solely the result of Crisp's actions.
Oakland's offense failed to offer much help in the early get-go to starter Brandon McCarthy, who faced the minimum over six of his seven innings of work but surrendered three hits and two walks and committed a throwing error to first base in the other -- a four-run second frame.
McCarthy has occasionally lost touch with an approach that landed him a starting job in the big leagues this year. The latest proof was on display in that 30-pitch inning.
"I just lost feel for my mechanics, lost feel for my arm slot," the A's righty said. "I was just kind of searching, more so than anything. It took me too long to make the adjustment to get it back and stop the bleeding."
McCarthy made quick work of his opponents thereafter, tossing out five subsequent scoreless frames. But the frustration that mounted during the fateful second inning was still visible following the loss, which moved the hurler to 1-4 on the season.
"I felt like I did a lot of things I wanted to do," he said, "but that one inning was too much to save the whole outing. It just can't happen."
McCarthy is coming off a spring campaign during which he struck out 20 and walked just one in 26 effective innings -- a performance that rightfully awarded him the fifth-starter spot. He managed to keep up that pace upon the season's start, offering up just seven earned runs next to three walks and 20 strikeouts over his first four starts.
Since, though, McCarthy has allowed 24 earned runs with seven walks and 16 strikeouts in the four outings that have followed.
"He started off, all through Spring Training, his walks were so low that you kind of expect him to never walk anybody, so I'm not concerned about his command or anything," Geren said. "You saw after that inning he got it right back."
The offense, meanwhile, stayed quiet through the first six innings against hurler Phil Humber, tallying just two hits during that span, before narrowing Chicago's lead to one in the seventh. Ryan Sweeney, Hideki Matsui and Kurt Suzuki tallied back-to-back-to-back hits to load the bases with no outs. A wild pitch from Humber handed Oakland its first run of the night, and David DeJesus made it 4-2 courtesy of an RBI base hit that ended Humber's night.
Kevin Kouzmanoff's sacrifice fly off reliever Jesse Crain scored another but the A's watched the frame come to a premature end when DeJesus was picked off at first to end the game-tying threat -- one that resurfaced as Crisp bolted for home in the following frame.
"He's a guy that any time he's on base, you look for him to do something," Geren said. "It was a little unusual at third. When I saw him take off, I knew he had to have seen something that he thought he could make it."