Saunders' gem, Hunter's shot fuel Halos
Lefty allows one run on three hits; slugger hits two-run homer
CHICAGO -- Joe Saunders has his swagger back. Torii Hunter never lost his.
Saunders' left arm and Hunter's smoking bat were the primary weapons of impact in the Angels' 3-2 decision over the White Sox on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Saunders (3-5) held the Sox to one run across 7 2/3 innings, and Hunter's two-run shot to left against hard-luck John Danks (3-3) in the fourth inning gave the Angels a lead they didn't surrender.
"Danks was great -- one hit into the eighth," Hunter said, having gone deep for the third consecutive game. "He pitched his butt off. My home run was the only hit we had.
"Saundo went out and did his thing -- great stuff. It was all about throwing strikes and not having 100 pitches in the fifth inning. Getting into the seventh, the eighth, that's big."
Brian Fuentes made it through the ninth after a leadoff homer by Paul Konerko -- his 14th of the season -- to nail down his fifth save after Fernando Rodney struck out Andruw Jones to close the eighth in relief of Saunders.
"It's a natural instinct when you're getting hit to start picking on the plate," said Saunders, who has yielded two earned runs over his past three starts after surrendering 15 over the previous three. "That's when you get behind guys.
"When I was struggling, a bunch of stuff goes through your mind. Staying positive, it's really tough. You feel like you've got good stuff, and you make one or two mistakes, and sometimes that's the difference. It was nice to take a step back and focus on strike one. Get ahead of hitters -- that's what I've been doing the last three games."
Danks (3-3) was sailing along in the fourth when he walked Bobby Abreu on a full count before Hunter unloaded his third homer in as many games on the road trip into the seats in left field. It was his seventh homer of the season.
"I'm feeling good at the plate," Hunter said, commending his manager for a lineup alteration that dropped him a slot to No. 4, with Abreu sliding into his familiar third spot. "Mike Scioscia made some changes and put me in the four-hole. I can cut loose a little more, and Bobby's where he needs to be."
Danks made it into the eighth regretting just one pitch, the fastball Hunter turned into a souvenir.
"Basically, he made one mistake all game, and Torii didn't miss it," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of Danks. "Other than that, he was lights-out. We outhit them, 6-3, and found a way to lose. It's a shame. The way he's throwing the ball, he should have five, six or seven wins. He has been pretty money for us all year."
Juan Rivera singled with one out in the eighth, moving up on Mike Napoli's single. Rivera scored on a double error charged to third baseman Jayson Nix on Erick Aybar's ground ball -- one for bobbling it, another for throwing it away.
That became a big run when Konerko unloaded on a full count, but Fuentes might have thrown a different pitch than a fastball down to the dangerous cleanup man if it had been a one-run game.
"I wasn't going to walk him," Fuentes said. "If it's a one-run game, I'd probably throw something different. He's a good hitter. He's leading his team in home runs."
A one-out single by Pierzynski and a passed ball had the tying run in scoring position, but Fuentes struck out Alexei Ramirez after retiring Carlos Quentin on a fly ball to Hunter.
"I like to pitch as much as I can," said Fuentes, whose workload has been highly sporadic given the Angels' poor start. He was appearing in back-to-back games for the first time this season, and he needs work to find his rhythm, timing and arm speed.
"You can't duplicate a game situation in the bullpen," he said. "It's just not the same."
Chicago had taken the lead in the second when Konerko singled, took third on Pierzynski's double and scored on Quentin's sacrifice fly.
Saunders settled into a groove and worked through his biggest crisis in the sixth when he retired Alex Rios on a fly ball to leave the bases loaded after a single and two walks.
"It was a fastball in," Saunders said. "I wanted to make sure I got it in there. These guys can hit the ball. This is kind of a hitter-friendly park. I knew I had to make some pitches against a good-hitting team. I got it in enough to keep it in the ballpark."
White Sox left fielder Juan Pierre elevated above the fence in left in the fifth to take a home run away from Rivera.
But there was nothing Chicago could do about Hunter's big fly. It was the third time in his career he's homered in three consecutive games and the first since August 2006, when he went deep in four straight for the Twins.
"In my first at-bat," Hunter said, his drive to deep right-center resulting in Rios' two-base error, "the bat snapped in my hands after I hit it. That was crazy. On the home run, the wood was good."
And the Angels chopped down a two-game losing spin that came courtesy of the Rangers in Texas.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.