Reporting from Chicago — Mike Scioscia held Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu out of his lineup amid deepening slumps.
It only seemed as if the rest of the Angels batters took the day off.
The Angels' offense bottomed out Thursday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field during a 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox, managing two hits and three baserunners against a pitcher who entered the game with a .500 record.
John Danks stifled the Angels during a complete-game shutout, striking out seven and walking none as the White Sox completed a four-game sweep. The Angels did not get their first hit until Reggie Willits led off the seventh inning with a single past diving shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
"We're losing games and it looks like we're not even competitive; we're just out there," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We just don't look like ourselves."
The Angels' sixth loss in seven games dropped them to 5 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West (pending the outcome of Thursday night's Orioles-Rangers game) and prompted Scioscia to address his players after they concluded a series in which they scored five runs, collected two extra-base hits and batted .138 (four for 29) with runners in scoring position.
"The offensive continuity has not slowed down," Scioscia told reporters, "it's just disappeared."
Danks (8-7) dispatched the Angels quickly, needing only eight pitches to get through the fourth inning and seven to get through the fifth amid a series of what Scioscia described as "giveaway at-bats" during a game that lasted only 1 hour 50 minutes.
It was the second time in the last six games that an opposing pitcher has held the Angels without a hit through the first six innings; Kansas City's Bruce Chen did it Sunday at Angel Stadium.
Ervin Santana, who limited the White Sox to three hits and one run in eight innings, was the Angels' starting pitcher in both games. Santana made only one mistake Thursday, plunking leadoff hitter Juan Pierre on the arm with a pitch in the first inning.
"I was trying to throw inside," Santana said. "It was a little bit up and I hit his arm. It happens."
Pierre advanced to third on Alex Rios' double to left field and scored on Paul Konerko's sacrifice fly. And that was pretty much it for both offenses.
The Angels, with two out in the third, finally had a baserunner when Cory Aldridge got aboard thanks to third baseman Omar Vizquel's fielding error, but Erick Aybar popped out to catcher A.J. Pierzynski in foul territory to end the inning.
It took four more innings for Willits to break through with his single.
"Every at-bat I had, I was trying to battle him," Willits said of Danks, "but he kept making good pitch after good pitch after good pitch."
Howie Kendrick followed Willits' hit with a single to center, giving the Angels runners on first and second with nobody out. Danks then jammed Hunter with a cutter, getting him to ground into a fielder's choice that put runners on first and third with one out.
That's where the runners remained. Mike Napoli popped out to second baseman Gordon Beckham and Juan Rivera hit a one-hopper back to Danks.
Scioscia chose to put a positive spin on the Angels' sagging fortunes afterward, saying he told his players they were capable of much greater success than they had achieved over the last week.
"This is basically the same group of guys right here that eight days ago was beating some teams that are playing the best baseball in the league and maybe in baseball," he said. "So it's in there for us to play at the level we need to reach our goals."
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