A's, Thomas Inch Closer To Title

Whether or not Frank Thomas' late surge ends up leading to a Most Valuable Player award will be decided by 28 voters later this month.

But there's no disputing Frank Thomas is the A's MVP. The Big Hurt proved it again Sunday afternoon, hitting a three-run homer to give the A's the lead after they were down 2-0, and the A's held on for a 5-4 win over the White Sox.

It was fitting that Thomas did it again to his former team. Thomas' season turnaround began at U.S. Cellular Field in mid-May. Now he's carrying the A's on his massive shoulders toward the postseason.

With another loss by the Angels, the A's lead is a whopping seven games with 14 left. Seven of Oakland's last 10 are against the Angels.

Thomas is hitting .344 with a majors-best 10 home runs and 26 RBIs already this month. It's the type of September that led Chipper Jones (.298-10-22) to the MVP in 1999 and Vladimir Guerrero (.371-10-23) to the MVP in 2004.

Since he's already eclipsed those players' numbers, a better comparison might be Jason Giambi, who hit .400 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in a dramatic September performance in 2000 that led to him winning the MVP for the A's.

Overall, Thomas' numbers are getting closer to those of David Ortiz, Jermaine Dye, Justin Morneau and the other MVP candidates. Thomas has 38 homers and 105 RBIs for the year.

The A's are 23-4 against the White Sox at home since 2001.

REPLAY: Frank Thomas' three-run homer in the fourth inning gave the A's the lead Sunday. They tacked on a couple more runs, which were needed to preserve a 5-4 win over the White Sox that completed a three-game sweep.

Starter Joe Blanton allowed two runs in five innings. Reliever Brad Halsey pitched a scoreless sixth, then allowed two runs in the seventh. Joe Kennedy pitched a scoreless eighth, and Justin Duchscherer closed it out in the ninth for his ninth save. Closer Huston Street had pitched two days in a row.

Monday's Notebook

--RHP Rich Harden is penciled in to return from the disabled list Thursday in the series finale against Cleveland. Harden will throw another bullpen session Monday as a final test for his elbow.

--DH Frank Thomas was voted the Bill Rigney "Good Guy" award by the San Francisco/Oakland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America for fostering the best working relationship between the team and press.

--CF Mark Kotsay returned to the lineup Sunday and made an immediate impact, throwing out a runner at the plate to end the first inning. He also doubled ahead of Thomas' three-run homer in the fifth. Kotsay has 103 outfield assists since 1998, the most in the majors in that span. Kotsay probably won't start Tuesday or Thursday, against a couple of lefties, so he'll be fresh for the three-game weekend series against the Angels.

--LHP Barry Zito's free agent options won't be as numerous as once thought, if a report in Sunday's New York Post is accurate. The story said neither New York team will pursue Zito this offseason. It was thought the Yankees were the most likely team for Zito. That could open the door for the three teams in Southern California. Zito grew up in San Diego and now lives in Los Angeles.

--SS Bobby Crosby was still sore Sunday from the rotational exercises he did Friday. Crosby won't start baseball activities, such as batting practice or fielding, until he's pain-free. With two weeks left in the season, it's getting tougher by the day for Crosby to return at all.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- The number of 1-0 victories by the A's this year. Barry Zito and Justin Duchscherer beat the Angels on May 1 in Anaheim. Dan Haren and Huston Street did it May 19 against the Giants, and did it again Sept. 13 in Minnesota.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a game we had to win. Everybody knew that. I especially knew it. I couldn't stop thinking about this game. I had so much adrenaline. It just felt like a playoff game with the atmosphere and (Minnesota's Francisco) Liriano out there. It was a game we had to have. I had to make a difference. I had to have my best stuff. There was no other way to do it." -- A's starter Dan Haren, on his 1-0 victory over Minnesota on Sept. 13.

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