OAKLAND -- The White Sox four-game winning streak and six-game run overall on the road came to an end on Tuesday night with Oakland's 2-0 victory at the Coliseum, marking the second time the South Siders were shut out this season.
Grant Balfour (fifth save) officially finished off this potentially perfect West Coast road trip when he struck out pinch-hitter Adam Dunn with Kosuke Fukudome on third base. But the game really might have turned in the eighth inning, when White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (1-3) returned to the mound at 110 pitches and promptly walked Daric Barton on five pitches.
It was just one of two walks issued by Floyd, who was otherwise unhittable over 7 1/3 innings. But it was a free pass that eventually led to the winning run scoring for Oakland (9-10).
"I'm just trying to continue what I've been doing, what I've been working on," said Floyd, who threw 71 of his 119 pitches for strikes. "Just focus in on each pitch. I was trying to keep the team in the game, and I felt like I did that until I walked the last guy."
After Floyd fanned Luke Hughes, who couldn't get down a sacrifice bunt, left-handed-hitting Kila Ka'aihue was summoned to pinch-hit for Anthony Recker. White Sox manager Robin Ventura went to left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, who had not been scored upon in nine previous appearances this season.
Kurt Suzuki proceeded to pinch-hit for Ka'aihue with a southpaw now on the mound, and Suzuki deposited a 1-0 fastball just fair down the left-field line for a double to score Barton from first. Eric Sogard singled home Suzuki with two outs for an insurance run.
"Both staffs have been pitching well. And you look down not only at their starters, but they've got some real good young arms in the bullpen. So it was a battle," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "In those games, one run seems like more -- and really Sogard's hit made it feel like it was 5-0, with Dunn sitting on the bench, Konerko lurking and [A.J.] Pierzynski sitting on the bench, as well."
That extra run truly loomed large in the ninth, even after Balfour sat down Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza without much trouble to start the frame. Fukudome grounded a single up the middle in a pinch-hit role for Brent Lillibridge, at which point Ventura went to his bench for Dunn as the power-hitting, potential tying run.
Dunn, who didn't start against Oakland left-hander Tommy Milone, hit for Alex Rios -- although Rios entered the night with an 11-game hitting streak. Rios also had a 2-for-12 career ledger against Balfour, with five strikeouts. Despite Rios' two hits leading to a homer and three RBIs, those previous head-to-head matchups had nothing to do with Ventura's decision.
"You are looking to tie it up," said Ventura of calling upon Dunn. "He's probably our best shot at tying it up. That was the only reason."
Rios had no complaints postgame about the manager's call, focusing solely on the good of the team after Dunn swung and missed at a 3-2 fastball from Balfour with Konerko on-deck.
"I thought I was going to hit," said Rios of the ninth. "But if he thought that Adam had a better chance, let's go for it. We are here to win games. That's what matters right now."
There will be plenty of wins down the road for the White Sox (10-7) if Floyd pitches as he did on Tuesday.
He didn't make history like Philip Humber on Saturday or throw a complete-game shutout like Jake Peavy on Monday, which marked the first time the White Sox had two complete-game shutouts in three days since Jack McDowell and Alex Fernandez went back-to-back on July 1-2, 1994.
Instead, Floyd put aside his career-long April struggles, featuring a 5.60 ERA lifetime during the month, and fanned six while allowing a single to Jemile Weeks leading off the fourth and Barton's double with two outs in the fifth. On this night, Milone (3-1) was every bit as good on the mound for Oakland, with two of his three singles erased by Dayan Viciedo's double-play grounder in the fifth and Brent Morel's caught stealing to end the eighth.
"Yeah, [Floyd] pitched great," said Ventura of the pitching matchup. "Their guy pitched a little better."
"He had it all working well for him," said Rios of Milone, who struck out five over eight scoreless innings and 98 pitches. "He kept us off balance and everything was located where he wanted it."
Oakland's narrow escape forged a three-way tie atop the American League Central between the White Sox, Tigers (10-7) and the Indians (9-6), albeit very early in the season. A win on Wednesday afternoon would send the White Sox home with a highly successful 5-1 road trip before taking on Boston for four games.
Thoughts of a nearly-flawless road trip didn't give Ventura a happy feeling on Tuesday night. He was thinking about the one that could have made this AL West excursion a flawless 6-0.
"Tonight, this one stings -- because you know you had a guy pitch a good game and couldn't get much out of it on the offensive side," Ventura said. "You don't like to see anybody pitch like that and be on the wrong side of it."
"It's baseball," Floyd said. "You feel like you pitched a great game and you end up losing the game. It stinks, but you just move on and try to get going the next start for me. And we have to win a ballgame [on Wednesday] and try to take the series."