Angels' five-game streak slides away
Jepsen's ill-advised pitches allow White Sox to walk off
CHICAGO -- There are times when throwing strikes can be overrated. This, for Kevin Jepsen, was one of those times.
With the count in his favor on each occasion, Jepsen hung ninth-inning sliders to Jayson Nix and Scott Podsednik, and the White Sox walked off with a 5-4 decision over the Angels, snapping their five-game winning streak, on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Bad location," Jepsen said, Nix's double and Podsednik's RBI single having brought an abrupt halt to proceedings after John Lackey pounded the strike zone 74 times with 113 deliveries across eight strong innings, yielding solo homers to rookie Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin.
"Two sliders he hung," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, dismissively, of the ninth-inning blows that decided it. "He was trying to put Nix away -- slider up. Podsednik, that was a slider up and away from the plate. Two sliders, and they didn't miss 'em."
Jepsen, with a 1-2 advantage against Nix, wanted to "bury" a breaking ball, get the hitter to chase something out of the strike zone. Instead he left it up in a spot where Nix could drive it to the left-center gap.
Facing Podsednik, who'd doubled and scored the tying run in the seventh on Beckham's two-out single, Jepsen again jumped ahead 0-1 in the count.
"I've got a base open, a right-handed hitter [Beckham] coming up," Jepsen said. "Don't give in -- I'm going to go after guys -- but you have to be smart about it. It's not like you have to pound strikes there. Make him chase something. I just left too much of the plate. And he did a good job with it."
Podsednik's drive to right-center was nowhere close to a glove.
"It's been working real good," Jepsen said of his slider. "I felt great tonight. The same pitch in a different location, you get a popup or a ground ball."
Location, location, location.
Back outdoors, the Angels cooled off in the afterglow of their offensive rampage in Minnesota, where they produced 35 runs and 52 hits in a three-game sweep of the Twins over the weekend.
Returning to the lineup after missing 20 games with a strained muscle behind his left knee, Vladimir Guerrero singled and walked in four plate appearances as the Angels' designated hitter.
"He had a couple decent swings," Scioscia said. "He hit one ball hard."
That was a one-out single to left in the eighth, but the Angels couldn't cash in against relievers Tony Pena and Matt Thornton.
Shutting down the Angels in the ninth, Thornton moved to 6-2 with the win, Jepsen falling to 3-3.
The Angels snapped a 3-3 tie in the fifth when Chone Figgins walked for a third time, scooted to third on Maicer Izturis' single to right and scored when Bobby Abreu lifted a sacrifice fly for his third RBI.
The White Sox drew even when Beckham lashed his RBI single after Podsednik had pushed an unorthodox 150-foot double down the left-field line.
Asked if he'd seen that before, Lackey said, "Only in softball. It was effective. He was holding the bat like he was going to bring it with him."
Beckham, Chicago's Rookie of the Year candidate and AL Rookie of the Month for July, had wasted no time introducing himself to Lackey.
The gifted young third baseman crushed Lackey's second pitch to him in the first inning, a slider in his wheelhouse, into the seats in left.
"He can really pitch," Beckham, properly respectful, said. "He doesn't leave his fastball over the middle of the plate much. In the first inning, he hung a breaking ball to me and I reacted. But I saw him pretty good. He's good and he knows where to throw the ball to get you out."
With no history to draw on, Lackey was feeling his way with Beckham, who is batting .416 with 19 RBIs in his past 21 games.
"In this park, you're going to give up one or two ... especially against a guy you haven't faced before," Lackey said. "I hung a slider. He definitely had a good night tonight. You see a guy a few times, you can make some adjustments."
Lackey was all too familiar with Quentin.
"He walked off on me with [a homer] last year," Lackey said. "Two solo homers.
"I was trying to get ahead that first at-bat," his first-pitch fastball landing over the center-field wall an estimated 419 feet from home plate.
Quentin is 5-for-9 against Lackey with three homers.
The Angels stirred in the third, courtesy of Jose Contreras' wildness. Walks by Erick Aybar, Gary Matthews Jr., and Figgins loaded the bases. On an 0-2 pitch to Izturis, Contreras air-expressed a delivery over catcher A.J. Pierzynski's head for a run-scoring wild pitch.
Abreu, AL Player of the Month for July, coolly stroked an 0-2 pitch into left-center to deliver two runs.
Contreras' night was over after he walked Guerrero, having narrowly missing his head with a first-pitch fastball. D.J. Carrasco struck out Juan Rivera to strand two runners.
After the White Sox tied it with an unearned run in the third -- Paul Konerko's sacrifice fly cashing in Jermaine Dye after Figgins' fielding error on Jim Thome's grounder into the infield shift -- the Angels reclaimed the lead in classic little ball style in the fifth.
But their offense ran dry for a change, and this time it was the other side with the late magic.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.