Loaiza, A's Claw Back; Magic Number Five

Giving up runs early in the game isn't the ideal formula for winning. The A's have been doing it a lot lately. In fact, in every game on this homestand so far, the opponent has scored first.

The White Sox scored a run in the third inning Friday, two runs in the third inning Saturday, and two runs in the second inning Sunday. The A's rallied to win all three games.

Cleveland scored two runs in the first inning Monday and won. The Indians scored single runs in the first and third innings Tuesday, but the A's rallied for a win.

The Tribe scored two again in the first inning Wednesday, only to see the A's rally for a 4-3 win at the Coliseum. Oakland was shut-out until the sixth when Milton Bradley homered. The A's added the three winning runs with two-outs in the seventh. Bradley singled home the tying run and Frank Thomas drove-in the winning runs with a double to center.

The A's lowered their "magic number" to five going into Thursday's series finale against Cleveland, before a three-game series against the second-place Angels. They can clinch the AL West as early as Saturday.

Maybe scoring first is overrated. On the A's previous six-game road trip, the A's were 2-3 in the games they scored first, and won the only game they didn't.

It's probably one of those trends that emerge over the course of the long baseball season, but it's also a sign that the A's starting pitching hasn't been very good.

Esteban Loaiza (11-8) allowed three runs (two earned) in 7.2 innings Wednesday, a rare quality start for an A's starter. The "quality start" -- six innings or more, three earned runs or less -- can be deceptive sometimes.

Nonetheless, A's starters have done it just twice in six games on this homestand -- both times by Loaiza -- and just three times in the last 15 games. The other was by Dan Haren.

REPLAY: Esteban Loaiza allowed two runs with two outs in the first inning, then just two hits in the next 6.2 innings. Joe Kennedy allowed Loaiza's runner to score, then Justin Duchscherer recorded the last out in the eighth. Huston Street worked the ninth to save the 4-3 victory over Cleveland.

Milton Bradley's solo home run in the sixth inning, his 11th, trimmed Cleveland's 2-0 lead in half. Bradley, playing against one of his former team, singled home the tying run in the seventh. Frank Thomas hit a two-run double to center that scored the go-ahead runs.

Thursday's Notebook

--3B Eric Chavez didn't start Wednesday due to a sore left hamstring, an injury that's bothered him since spring training. The A's did an MRI on it, which showed some torn tissue that indicates a strain. Chavez said he's willing to play on one leg this weekend against the Angels. He probably won't start Thursday.

--INF Antonio Perez started in 3B Eric Chavez's place at third base, his first appearance since pinch running Sept. 10. Perez had nine at-bats in September going into the game. He went 0-for-3, was lifted for a pinch hitter, and he's hitting just .102 this year.

--OF Jay Payton extended his hitting streak to 10 games with two hits Wednesday, and he's hit in 20 of his last 21 games. Payton is 25-for-73 (.342) this month with eight runs, four RBIs and three steals.

--RHP Rich Harden will be limited to about 60 pitches in his highly-anticipated return to the mound in Thursday's series finale. Harden hasn't pitched since the first weekend in June.

--DH Frank Thomas' two RBIs in the seventh gave him 38 this season that put the A's ahead in a game. He's driven in 107 overall on the year. The A's next highest RBI total is Nick Swisher with 88.

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