Angels survive a frantic finish

McPherson-led Angels take finale

CHICAGO -- It wasn't a save situation, but in the end it could have been.

In what became the tenor of their three games here, Francisco Rodriguez joined suit and continued what best can be called an adventure for the bullpen on the South Side and nearly became its nightmare.

In each of the first two games at U.S. Cellular Field, the pen had its opportunity to maintain the club's pace in the win column. But Scot Shields blew a save and took a loss in the first game and Brendan Donnelly followed on the second night by allowing a walk-off homer to Jermaine Dye.

Activated from the disabled list Wednesday, Rodriguez pitched for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks and helped the Angels avoid being swept with a 10-7 win over the White Sox, but not before he gave the hometown crowd a reason to believe and his own dugout a reason to scream.

In the process, the Halos stayed within mere percentage points of the American League West-leading Rangers, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped with a loss to the Tigers. The Angels overcame two deficits Wednesday as the offense found its stride with a 13-hit attack that kept the pressure on the White Sox throughout the game.

"The fact that everybody came back and scored is a great sign," starter Paul Byrd said. "I think it is important, especially the way we came back."

The bullpen and the entire pitching staff have done their share of picking up the club this season, but Wednesday it was the offense's efforts that weighed heavily as the ninth inning veered wide and hurtled toward another wild finish. The White Sox had grabbed both of their wins in the series in their final at-bat, and what had appeared to be a win in-hand quickly became tenuous.

Staked to a four-run lead, Rodriguez opened the ninth by retiring A.J. Pierzynski on a called third strike. After getting ahead of Jermaine Dye, 0-2, Tuesday night's hero nearly went yard again but instead drilled a double off the left-center-field wall.

A strikeout of Timo Perez pulled it briefly together for Rodriguez, but his command suddenly disappeared as the rust of inaction took hold and the Sox put together the makings of a ninth-inning rally. Neither his fastball nor his trademark slider were anywhere near the strike zone.

Rodriguez walked the next three batters, including pinch-hitter Frank Thomas, who came to the plate with the bases loaded and representing the tying run. Thomas walked on five pitches to force in a run and brought the winning run to the plate in a game that was intended to be a relative ease-in appearance for Rodriguez to get re-acclimated to the rigors of a Major League mound.

"My velocity was right where I wanted it to be and I started out good. After that, I lost everything," said Rodriguez, who last appeared in a game May 14 in Detroit. "I lost my rhythm and my release point and that cost me a run."

Juan Uribe nearly ended it, but his bid for a grand slam drifted to the right of the left-field foul pole and Rodriguez came back to strike him out on the next pitch to end the game.

Rodriguez topped out at 95 mph on the house radar gun, but of his 32 pitches, only 17 were strikes as he walked three, struck out three and gave up a hit and a run over his one inning.

"I thought, all in all, he was sharp early and then he lost his command in the middle," manager Mike Scioscia said. "That pitch to Uribe was terrific."

Byrd's six innings to start for the Angels were nearly forgotten as the Angels made plenty of noise with the bat. The right-hander allowed five runs on six hits over six innings to pick up the win. Byrd also struck out six and did not walk a batter.

"I'll take it, but I'm not that excited about it," Byrd said. "They picked me up."

Nearly every regular in the lineup contributed Wednesday. Casey Kotchman was the only starter who did not score a run or drive one in.

Dallas McPherson capped a four-run fourth inning when he drilled his fifth home run of the year, a two-run shot to straightaway center off White Sox starter Jose Contreras. The Angels scored four more in the seventh, an inning that was highlighted by Bengie Molina's two-run single.

McPherson went 2-for-4 with three RBIs while Orlando Cabrera, Adam Kennedy and Molina each drove in a pair.

"Dallas had a great game; he had some big at-bats," Scioscia said.

McPherson ran his hitting streak to eight games, but was not quite ready to declare himself in an offensive groove.

"I don't know if I'm even at the point of seeing the ball well," said McPherson. "We'll see how it goes."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.