CHICAGO — No matter how much the offense struggled for the first two months this season, no matter how many injuries the team suffered, the Angels could console themselves for weeks with the knowledge they had never spent a day out of first place in the American League West.
Jermaine Dye led off the ninth inning Tuesday night with a home run against reliever Brendan Donnelly to give the Chicago White Sox a 5-4 victory in front of an announced 19,864 in U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago's second walk-off win over the Angels in as many nights.
Monday it was Scot Shields who coughed up a one-run lead in the ninth, giving up a two-out, two-run single to Timo Perez, and Tuesday it was Shields' bullpen buddy, Donnelly, who suffered the defeat, finding too much of the plate with a 1-and-1 fastball that Dye lined over the left-field wall, pushing the Angels into second place, a game behind the surging Texas Rangers.
"He absolutely crushed it," Donnelly said of Dye's home run. "If that ball hit the wall, the wall might have fallen down. He hit the ball just high enough to win the game with one swing."
The Angels scratched their way back from a 4-2 deficit behind cleanup batter Garret Anderson, who hit a home run against starter Freddy Garcia in the sixth inning and followed Darin Erstad's leadoff double in the eighth with a score-tying single against left-hander Damaso Marte.
Dallas McPherson followed Anderson's hit with a bloop single, putting runners on first and second, but Bengie Molina swung at the first pitch from right-hander Cliff Politte and bounced into an inning-ending double play.
Donnelly retired the heart of the Chicago order -- Aaron Rowand, Paul Konerko and Carl Everett -- in the bottom of the eighth and started the ninth, only the seventh multi-inning appearance in 20 games this season for the right-hander. Three pitches later, the White Sox were mobbing Dye at the plate.
"His strength, historically, has been getting the first hitter out, but he hasn't been as effective in the second inning," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Donnelly. "But he has enough length to go two innings."
Starter John Lackey had enough length to go seven innings, giving up four runs and 10 hits, including Tadahito Iguchi's run-scoring triple and Rowand's run-scoring single in the first and Joe Crede's home run in the fifth. The right-hander was charged with an earned run in the fourth, but it was hardly his fault.
With one out, Everett lofted a fly ball to deep right field, where Chone Figgins, the super utility player who had started at five positions in the previous five games, appeared to have a fairly routine play.
But battling a breeze and a twilight sky, Figgins lost track of the ball and failed to make a lunging catch on the warning track, the ball bouncing over the wall for a ground-rule double. Everett took third on Dye's single and scored on A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly for a 3-2 lead.
"He just broke a cardinal rule of outfield, never drift on a ball," Scioscia said. "You run to a spot hard in case the ball carries farther.... The ball kept going until he wasn't in position to make the play. It's something he'll learn and move on from."
The Angels, two games -- and two gut-wrenching losses -- into a challenging 12-game, four-city trip, will move on, as well, though no longer from their perch atop the AL West. Not that anyone is too concerned about the standings.
"It's June 1," Lackey said. "We've got a long way to go before we start worrying about [pennant] races."
True, but the Angels have to be concerned about how they've lost their first two games here, suffering breakdowns in areas that have been strengths all season -- their defense and bullpen.
"We're playing better and getting some bad breaks," Donnelly said. "The offense has started coming around more than it has been, and now, the last couple of nights, the bullpen didn't do its job. It's a long season, and our goal is to have everything click at the same time. The last two nights have been tough. When you're on the losing end of games like these, it stings a little worse."