John Danks walked a career-high five Saturday.
The White Sox were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners.
Nick Swisher went 0-for-4 and dropped a fly ball.
But thanks to three scoreless innings by the bullpen, the Sox mustered enough resources to forge a 2-1 victory over the Athletics and remained tied for first place with Minnesota in the AL Central.
"It was an ugly game, but we won," said manager Ozzie Guillen after the Sox had won for only the seventh time in their last 35 games at McAfee Coliseum. "I don't know how we did it. It might be a good sign for the future.
"Maybe every time everybody comes here, they get ready to be killed. That's the only reason they call it the Coliseum."
The Sox, who took a 2-0 lead in the second, have led in 11 of their last 13 losses at Oakland. Their shortcomings and inability to add insurance gave the Sox an uneasy feeling until Bobby Jenks induced Mark Ellis to fly to center to end the game.
"Every time we come here, you always think something is going to happen in a negative way," said Guillen, who watched Swisher battle the sun to make a sliding basket catch on Emil Brown's fly with the tying run at second base to end the seventh after he had dropped a fly in the third. "And we've got to try to start thinking about not thinking that way."
Through all the warning signs, Danks (10-5) got out of trouble. That was most noticeable in the fourth, when he threw Frank Thomas a steady diet of changeups before getting the former Sox great to ground a fastball for an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
"Fortunately, he mishit a ball for a double play," said Danks, who improved to 4-0 lifetime against Oakland and is 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA in 12 road starts this season. "That's kind of how the whole day went."
Despite Danks' wildness, he and Gavin Floyd have accounted for 32 percent of the Sox's 69 wins.
"We thought if that was the only question mark we had, we would be fine because we knew we could do it," Danks said of the success he and Floyd have earned. "So far we have shown that."
The bullpen combined with Danks to hold Oakland hitless over their final 20 plate appearances, including three strikeouts by Matt Thornton in the eighth. Guillen seems willing to accept the current makeup of his bullpen if setup man Scott Linebrink doesn't return from a right shoulder injury.
"I don't feel comfortable but I don't have any choice," Guillen said.
D.J. Carrasco pitched a scoreless seventh and is gaining more of Guillen's faith.
"I'm embracing it, when I know I can get ready," Carrasco said. "There are some instances where I come in for the sixth or come in for the eighth, but it's a good thing to do."