CHICAGO -- With the White Sox holding a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth, a controversial call at first base put an end to the A's second ninth-inning comeback attempt against Sergio Santos in the last three days.
On Sunday, Santos entered in a scenario identical to the one he faced on Friday night when the A's rallied from a two-run deficit for a two-run victory. After allowing one run on a pair of hits and a walk on Sunday, Santos closed the door on the White Sox 5-4 victory when first-base umpire Brian O'Nora called Coco Crisp out on a close play at first base.
Two nights earlier, Santos entered with a 5-3 lead and had the A's down to their final strike before allowing Oakland to erupt for four two-out runs and a 7-5 comeback victory. Santos said Friday's outing, possibly the worst of his young career, never crossed his mind.
"I thought about it that whole night," Santos said of the blown save. "But as soon as I woke up Saturday, literally, it was out of sight, out of mind. As soon as I got to the mound [today], my only focus was whoever was standing in the box, and it was easier to do than I thought it would be."
It may have been easier for him, but not for his manager. Ozzie Guillen walked out to the mound to talk to his young reliever after he walked Scott Sizemore to put two runners on base with only one out. Guillen said he just wanted to tell Santos to settle down and not rush himself, but said he never planned on taking Santos out, even if Crisp had been called safe, which would have loaded the bases with two outs.
Instead, after the A's cut the lead to one, Brent Morel, who entered the game in the ninth as a defensive substitution, threw Crisp out with runners at first and second to end the game much to the chagrin of A's interim manager Bob Melvin, who rushed out of the dugout to protest the game-ending call.
"It looked to us like he was safe," Melvin said.
"I didn't see the replay, but I think [Morel's] got a better chance at third base, tagging the base, than to go across [to first]," Guillen said. "As soon as he went back to throw the ball to first I said, 'Oh, that's a problem,' but I haven't seen the play yet."
For the second game in a row, the White Sox were put in position to walk away with the victory as a result of A's mistakes. After rallying from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the top of the seventh, Oakland allowed the White Sox to retake the lead in the bottom of the inning after an errant throw by third baseman Sizemore.
In an attempt to start an inning-ending double play, Sizemore's throw sailed into right field, allowing Mark Teahen to score from second. Paul Konerko then singled home another run to make it 5-3. Konerko finished 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.
"We haven't clicked on all cylinders at any point this season yet, so when you're not having that, [the mistake] helps," said Konerko. "As a team, you try not to give the other team extra outs, but on the flip side, it's great when you do get extra outs because, usually, it leads to runs, and we're just thankful for that."
The White Sox had built that early 3-1 lead behind the welcomed treat of a three-run Adam Dunn homer, which tied him with Joe DiMaggio for 72nd on the all-time home run list with 361. Dunn's blast into the right-field seats came one at-bat after he had a long fly ball come up just short of the wall in the second inning. It also extended the White Sox streak to 11 straight games with at least one home run.
"When Dunn makes good contact, that ball always has a good chance to leave the park," Guillen said. "A very good chance. That's what we got him for."
Philip Humber overcame some first-inning struggles and a game-tying solo home run by Sizemore in the seventh to pick up his sixth win in his first season as a starter. Humber retired 15 of 16 batters at one point after allowing the first two A's hitters to reach with singles and finished the day with a career-high seven strikeouts. He improved to 4-0 over his last seven starts and hasn't lost a start since April 30 against the Orioles.
"I don't really look at the numbers a whole lot," Humber said. "Just every time out there I want to give our team a chance to win and go deep in the ballgame. The numbers will take care of themselves."
In the end, it came down to that close call at first base, which not only gave the White Sox a 6-4 record on their 10-game homestand and pulled them to within 3 1/2 games of division-leading Cleveland, but it also just may have restored the confidence of their young closer.
"As soon as I walked off the field, I said, 'Hey, I really appreciate you keeping me in there,'" Santos said he told Guillen. "It would have been real tough, even if we win the game there, if he takes me out. It would have been tougher on me mentally. This just did wonders for me, whether it was ugly or not."
Paul Casella is an associate reporter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.