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Angels lose late lead, then game

Angels lose late lead, then game

CHICAGO -- Dustin Moseley went with his best pitch, but right into Jim Thome's wheelhouse was not the intended destination.

Game, set and milestone to the man from the Windy City.

When Thome launched Moseley's fastball in a familiar arc toward the U.S. Cellular Field seats in left-center, a game that seemingly had belonged to the Angels on Sunday was seized by the White Sox, 9-7.

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Career homer No. 500 by Gentleman Jim was cheered by 29,010 of his closest friends.

The Angels didn't join the celebration. They certainly respect the man, but nobody likes to lose, even on a historic occasion.

"At some point, we'll be happy for Jim," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But right now it's tough."

Thome's momentous blast came on the heels of two other homers, by Josh Fields in the seventh and Danny Richar in the eighth, that made the big moment possible.

Joe Saunders had departed after six innings with a 7-1 lead, on his way to his ninth win, when the White Sox came alive.

They singled three times against Chris Bootcheck before Fields unloaded, and they victimized Scot Shields in the eighth before Thome climbed in to confront Moseley, 60 feet six inches away.

"I fell behind in the count and it came down to 3-2," Moseley said. "I was gonna go with my best, a sinker. I made a mistake and he got me."

The mistake was location, on the outer part of the plate. It enabled Thome to whip his massive forearms around and get lift with his classic slugger's swing.

Reggie Willits took a few strides toward the wall and quickly realized he didn't have enough room for a drive estimated at 426 feet.

Even more subdued than usual after this stunning loss, the Angels also had made some noise earlier in the day against Mark Buehrle, refuting the popular notion that they're a band of banjo hitters.

Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera crushed home runs, and a four-run seventh inning had them riding comfortably in the driver's seat with a six-run cushion.

But the bullpen, seemingly back in top form after a fitful spell, didn't measure up on this occasion while right-hander Mike MacDougal silenced the Angels in the eighth and ninth for the win, moving to 2-5.

"They came back and they beat us," Scioscia said. "You're not going to put any win in the bank until you get that last out.

"Something uncharacteristically happened to us. We gave up eight runs in three innings. That doesn't happen very often. It happened today."

Saunders had such exceptional movement on his fastball, he said, he had trouble keeping it in the strike zone. That led to five walks and 106 pitches through six innings, forcing him out even though he'd yielded only two hits and one run while striking out seven.

"It was almost too alive," Saunders said of his stuff. "It was going crazy there [for] a couple batters. I had to readjust my focal point."

Thome was 0-for-3 against Saunders, and Justin Speier struck out the big man in the seventh after relieving Bootcheck.

"He's so strong that if you make a mistake, he's going to hurt you," said Saunders, having dispensed his best effort since holding the Red Sox to a run in 7 2/3 innings at Fenway Park on Aug. 19.

"He's in an exclusive club now. It's pretty amazing when a guy does that. You always appreciate it ... but you want to win the game."

Filling in for Garret Anderson -- taking his first break since Aug. 3 after pounding pitchers without mercy for six weeks -- Rivera singled first time up and unloaded a two-run shot to left in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.

It was a strong statement in his case for a postseason roster spot after missing almost the entire season recovering from a broken leg.

Scisocia juggled the lineup, but his main man -- Guerrero -- was in his familiar No. 3 spot in the order. He went the other way with a Buehrle delivery and sent it rocketing over the right-field fence for a solo blast in the first.

The homer was his 25th of the season, marking the 10th consecutive season he's reached that plateau. Only the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez among active players can say that.

Saunders took a shutout into the fifth. A pair of walks proved costly when Jerry Owens stroked a two-out RBI single to center.

Owens showed his stuff in center field an inning later, racing to the right-center gap and diving full-tilt to steal extra bases -- and an RBI -- from rookie Terry Evans.

In the seventh, after Willits' double, Robb Quinlan made Buehrle pay for Guerrero's 27th intentional walk of the season, eclipsing his own franchise record.

Quinlan's single scored Willits. After Maicer Izturis' single loaded the bases and ended Buehrle's day, Ryan Bukvich was victimized by a slow roller by Howard Kendrick that became an RBI single. An error by third baseman Andy Gonzalez on Rivera's grounder cashed in another run, and Mike Napoli (three walks, two singles) walked to force home the final run of the inning.

But it wasn't over, not by a long shot -- a vintage long shot by Gentleman Jim Thome.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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