ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - For the second straight day, the Chicago White Sox were tantalizingly close to claiming second place in the AL Central.
And for the second straight day, it was yanked away by a team that's getting serious about its own playoff chase.
Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of four-hit ball in his first start since signing an $85 million contract extension, and Erick Aybar drove in three runs in the Los Angeles Angels' sixth straight victory, 8-0 over the White Sox on Wednesday night.
Zach Stewart (1-3) allowed seven hits and seven runs while pitching into the seventh inning for Chicago, which wasn't able to capitalize on two straight losses by Cleveland. Division-leading Detroit and the Indians both lost earlier Wednesday, but the White Sox remained 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers in third place, which they've occupied for most of the last four months.
``They can win or lose all they want, but if we don't win, it doesn't really matter,' White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre said. ``I know some guys scoreboard-watch, but if we don't take care of our business, we'll be making fishing plans here soon. We've just got to keep battling and hope we turn things around.'
Alejandro De Aza's third-inning double was the only extra-base hit for the White Sox, who haven't been above third place since April. They also missed a chance Tuesday to move above .500 for just the second time in four months.
``We were facing a pretty good guy on the mound,' White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. ``It was just one of those games you throw away and come back the next day. We didn't pitch good, (and) we didn't put together anything at all (offensively).'
Until the game got away in the seventh inning, Stewart had made a solid return to the White Sox's rotation after a stint in the bullpen. He made two starts immediately after arriving in a trade with Toronto on July 27, returning to the rotation after an injury to Philip Humber.
``There were so many big pitches where I just left the ball up and missed my spot,' Stewart said. ``I put it in a place where (Mathis) could do something with it, and he did.'
Torii Hunter homered for the Angels, and Jeff Mathis had a two-run double during a three-run second inning in a dominant finale to their nine-game homestand. Los Angeles' second straight series sweep and Texas' 13-2 loss to Boston trimmed the Angels' deficit in the AL West to just 2 1/2 games before they head into a weekend series at Rangers Ballpark on Friday.
``I love the way we're playing ball right now,' Hunter said. ``We've got some guys with some heart. We're going in to play the first-place team, and we're 2 1/2 games back. We're riding that wave.'
Los Angeles scored four runs in the seventh, prompting manager Mike Scioscia to call an early night for Weaver (15-6), who received one total run of support in his previous three starts combined. Weaver didn't need that much help while emphatically ending a four-start winless streak, striking out eight and allowing just one runner to reach third base.
``He throws his cutter and his changeup for strikes, and people sometimes start chasing bad pitches because they're worried about getting deep into counts,' Guillen said. ``That's the reason we got shut out today. I don't think he's the best in the game, but he's right there.'
A day earlier, Los Angeles announced Weaver had agreed to a five-year deal through 2016, passing up unrestricted free agency to stay in Orange County. Although the Angels scored just eight runs in Weaver's last six starts, the AL All-Star game starter's 15 victories already are one short of his career high in 2009.
After Aybar drove home Mark Trumbo for the Angels' first run in the second inning, Mathis pounded a double into the left-center gap, scoring Vernon Wells and Aybar. Mathis entered the game batting .176, but his rapport with Weaver makes him valuable to the Angels.
Hunter hit a two-out shot well beyond the left-field wall in the third inning, his 18th homer of the season. The steady slugger is closing in on his sixth straight 20-homer season.
Aybar laced a two-run double down the first-base line in the seventh, followed by back-to-back RBI doubles by Alberto Callaspo and Bobby Abreu against reliever Josh Kinney.
NOTES: More bad news for Texas: Scioscia is contemplating using Ervin Santana and Weaver on short rest after 13-game winner Dan Haren starts the opener at Rangers Ballpark. Los Angeles started rookies Garrett Richards and Tyler Chatwood in the first two games of last week's series with the Rangers, who beat both soundly. ... Jake Peavy will start for the White Sox on Friday when they open a series in Seattle against Charlie Furbush and the Mariners. ... Abreu's 547th career double tied him with Manny Ramirez for 25th on baseball's career list.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved