Sox doubled up by Angels, see lead cut to half-game

Sox doubled up by Angels, see lead cut to half-game

Sox doubled up by Angels, see lead cut to half-game
ANAHEIM -- No magic formula exists to decide whether the White Sox or the Tigers will be representing the American League Central in the postseason, aside from simple mathematics.

The two teams sit tied in the loss column after the White Sox dropped a 4-2 decision to the Angels before 41,440 on a warm Saturday night in Anaheim, following the Tigers and Doug Fister's shutout of the Twins earlier in the day. Detroit (80-70) has an extra game to play as part of Sunday's doubleheader, while the White Sox (81-70) get to do battle with AL Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver on the West Coast.

If the White Sox don't put forth a slightly more cohesive effort against the talented right-hander, they might be looking up at first place for the first time since July 23. Picking the final two weeks of the season for the third losing streak of four games or more since the All-Star break and fifth such skid of the 2012 campaign doesn't exactly enhance the South Siders' chances.

It's not about pressure, though. The White Sox are where they want to be, minus a five- or six-game division cushion.

"You would rather be doing this than trying to ruin somebody's postseason chance," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Guys should be having fun doing it. There is stress and stuff like that, but you would rather be doing this."

"We just have to find a way to win some games," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We can't play any different, change anything. Just find a way. That's it."

Saturday night's contest looked as if it could be over quickly for White Sox starter Jose Quintana (6-5). After Angels starter Dan Haren (12-11) struck out the side in the first inning, the Angels (83-69) struck for four runs in the bottom of the first. That rally was enhanced by Quintana dropping Erick Aybar's routine sacrifice bunt back to the mound for an error after Mike Trout walked, and was finished by run-scoring hits from Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo's two-run single to right.

"I momentarily took my eyes off the ball but I felt I had it in my glove and I did," said Quintana of the costly error, through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "It just fell out."

"Never faced him before, but we had a plan: stay inside the cutter and hit it," Hunter said. "We got on him right away."

Those four runs were all the Angels would get in a victory where the White Sox got close but never could quite get over. They put at least one runner on base in every inning but the eighth, including Alex Rios' one-out single off of Angels closer Ernesto Frieri (20th save) in the ninth.

Pierzynski struck out for the second out of the frame and Dewayne Wise's pop up to shortstop Aybar dropped the White Sox to 4-4 on this nine-game road trip interrupted by Monday's home makeup victory over the Tigers. Ventura liked his hitters' overall approach, after talking pregame about players trying to do too much with each at-bat, while also giving credit to Haren.

"Sometimes you get a pitcher that's pretty good," said Ventura. "He was good tonight."

"That's a tough lineup, power throughout," said Haren, who struck out four over six-plus innings. "My split was working in the first inning -- all three strikeouts were with the split. Whether it's 86 or 91, I'm focusing on keeping the ball down. It's location for me."

A key moment came in the fourth when the Angels loaded the bases on Vernon Wells' infield single and walks to Chris Iannetta and Trout. Both Wells and Iannetta moved up a base when a balk was called by first-base umpire Ed Hickox on Quintana.

Konerko and Ventura disagreed, and it was Ventura who eventually was given his fourth ejection of the season. Quintana then showed the maturity that has helped make him one of this year's true mound surprises by striking out Aybar, getting a force at home on Pujols' grounder back to the mound that ricocheted off of his pitching hand and then nailing Hunter on a ground ball to short.

Even with the first-inning debacle, Quintana lasted five innings and gave up just one earned run on six hits. He struck out three and walked five.

Unfortunately for the White Sox, who now sit just one-half game ahead of the Tigers, their offense couldn't build off of this momentum. Konerko's homer in the second accounted for one run off of Haren and Wise's groundout to second scored Rios in the seventh.

Two runs still left the White Sox a little short. It's a problem they hope to rectify Sunday against another playoff contender, with the Angels now just 2 1/2 games behind the A's for the second Wild Card spot, as the Tigers do their bidding in Detroit.

Nothing changes from the past 5 1/2 months. Just find a way to win more than the other playoff competitors.

"Ten games doesn't seem like many," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, speaking of his team but also hitting home for the White Sox. "But it can be an eternity."

"You've got to just go out and play. If you put pressure upon yourself, the game is going to get a lot worse," White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "You have to have fun and try to win ballgames. A lot of guys are working their butt off to do that and we're just coming up short right now."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.