OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rich Harden walked Scott Podsednik on 13 pitches to open the game. In a previous year, Harden might have lost more than the leadoff hitter -- but he shook off that tiny setback and went on to another big win for the streaking Oakland Athletics.
Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro drew bases-loaded walks from the Chicago White Sox's erratic pitching staff in the fifth inning of the A's eighth straight victory, 6-2 Friday night.
Harden (5-3) didn't allow an earned run in 5 2/3 tough innings for the A's, who won their ninth straight home game and moved within one game of .500 with their longest winning streak of the season. It was Oakland's 12th victory in 13 outings overall, with the club's starting pitchers accounting for all 12 wins.
Harden faced difficulties from his opening pitches, when Podsednik's epic at-bat eventually led to two unearned runs. He acknowledged overthrowing his pitches, topping 96 mph in an attempt to win a small battle with Podsednik.
"That was interesting," Harden said. "I didn't like losing that at-bat, but I had to keep going and keep making my pitches. ... It's a pretty good feeling, coming out and playing like that against one of the best teams in baseball."
But the A's star Canadian right-hander persevered to lower his ERA to 0.51 in 17 2/3 innings over three starts -- all victories -- since coming off the disabled list June 21. Harden provided a sharp contrast to struggling Chicago starter Jose Contreras, whose wildness and short start doomed the club with the majors' best record.
"I don't like going that short," Harden said. "It's funny. A couple years ago, I would have been happy to go that far. It was always five innings, no more. Now, I don't feel like I did my job unless I go six, seven innings."
The A's got just seven hits, including Scott Hatteberg's two-run single in the eighth, but Chicago's pitchers provided plenty of baserunners.
Contreras (3-5) threw three wild pitches - increasing his major league-leading total to 14 -- and issued seven walks, tying his career high, in 4 1/3 innings. The league-leading White Sox, whose three-game winning streak was snapped after yielding a season-high 10 walks, the most by White Sox pitchers since issuing 12 walks Sept. 12, 2003, at Boston.
"I handed the game over to them," Contreras said.
Carl Everett had an RBI double for the White Sox, who scored two unearned runs in the first, but couldn't get a runner to second base in the next eight innings. Though the White Sox have the majors' best record at 53-25, they've lost 19 of their last 22 at the Coliseum, including two of three in April.
"Welcome to the House of Terrors," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think we didn't lose it, we gave it away. We just walked too many guys, and that's something this club hasn't done this year. It's amazing they didn't score more runs."
Contreras, 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA and 16 walks in his last four starts, rubbed his cramping right calf during the fourth inning, drawing a visit from the Sox's medical staff. He stayed in the game, but quickly fell apart -- and his relievers followed suit.
"I don't know if his leg was hurt or not," said Swisher, who drew three walks. "All of a sudden, we were like, 'What's going on here?' But that's just typical A's baseball, you know?"
The A's tied it at 2-all in the fourth, scoring on a wild pitch and Dan Johnson's RBI groundout. After Oakland loaded the bases against Contreras with Bobby Crosby's double and two walks in the fifth, Kevin Walker walked Swisher to force in the go-ahead run with two outs -- and Luis Vizcaino then walked Scutaro.
Hatteberg added a bases-loaded single in the eighth. He also drew two early walks and scored two runs.
Kiko Calero retired all seven batters he faced in relief of Harden, and Huston Street retired the White Sox in the ninth with 10 consecutive strikes.
Crosby extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games with a fifth-inning double for Oakland. ... A's DH Erubiel Durazo took a few swings in batting practice. He's been on the disabled list since May 27 with left elbow tendinitis. ... A's RHP Chad Bradford will pitch one inning for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday in his recovery from back surgery.