OAKLAND -- Bob Melvin discovered in Monday's 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox the same thing as every manager in the big leagues has discovered over time.
There's no such thing as a perfect win.
The A's manager has been schooled on this before. This time, a great effort by Jesse Chavez and some clutch extra-base hits produced nothing but smiles. Balancing that out was a nasty-looking effort from the bullpen that almost let the game slip away.
As it was, Chavez got credit for his third win after eight strong innings when Sean Doolittle collected the final three outs.
"I'd like to say a win's a win," Melvin said after Doolittle had to get back-to-back strikeouts with the tying run at second base. "Doolittle pitched great."
So did Chavez. After Major League home run leader Jose Abreu hit his 14th to lead off the ninth, however, the bullpen sagged. Fernando Abad walked the only man he faced. Jim Johnson got the chance to close it out, but instead was hit for a double and a run-scoring single.
Doolittle had to face pinch-hitter Paul Konerko, who delivered a sacrifice fly, before striking out Tyler Flowers and Leury Garcia.
Chavez took the near-miss in stride.
"Things got a little harried there at the end," Chavez said. "But you know what? It's baseball."
The right-hander allowed a second-inning homer to Dayan Viciedo but only three other hits through eight innings, to that point the longest outing of Chavez's career. He'd only thrown 90 pitches, so he was going to get a shot at his first complete game, but Abreu made sure that didn't happen.
Still it was the A's 24th win against 15 losses, the best record in the American League and good enough for a 3½-game lead over Seattle in the A.L. West. It took the A's until July 26 last year to put this much distance between themselves and second place.
Oakland has won five games in succession and has matched its best record after 39 games in 24 years, matching the 2003 team.
Much of that is due to the starting rotation, which continues to roll despite having three of the five men who were supposed to be starting not available. Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are out for the season with Tommy John surgery and Dan Straily was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento last week.
No matter. The A's starters have a cumulative ERA of 3.02 and have only suffered eight losses. Chavez has joined Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in the top end of the rotation, those three owning a 12-3 record and a 2.29 ERA.
"We all feed off it," Chavez said.
Chavez has added a cut fastball to his repertoire in the last year or so, and it's making all the difference in the world. He no longer feels as if he needs to throw a 95 mph fastball to get his outs. He's throwing 92 or 93 and getting the ground balls he wasn't getting before.
He's made eight starts and has allowed two runs or less in six of them.
"As impressive as tonight was," Doolittle said of Chavez, "this is what he's been doing all along this year. And he did it against the best offense in the majors."
The White Sox came into the game with 197 runs scored, the best in the A.L. The A's were second at 187, but it was Oakland which flexed more muscle this time around.
Josh Reddick tripled in a run in the second, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and Jed Lowrie's 500th career hit was a two-run double in the seventh.
White Sox (Scott Carroll 1-2)
at A's (Drew Pomeranz 2-1),
7:05 p.m. CSNCA