ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Angels were well aware that they had to get to John Danks early because he has a history of making things tough on them. So they came out swinging, and it paid off.
Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols homered in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox left-hander, and the Angels held on for a 5-3 victory Tuesday night to remain 2 1-2 games behind first-place Houston in the AL West.
”Anytime you can get runs in the first inning, you know, it’s always huge,” Pujols said. ”I mean, that’s something that we’ve been struggling with the last couple of weeks after the (All-Star) break. Any time you can give our starting pitcher some run support right out the gate, it’s always a plus. We would love to do that every night.”
Garrett Richards (12-9) was charged with three runs – two earned – and eight hits in seven-plus innings with four strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander retired Melky Cabrera on double-play grounders his first two times up, then struck him out in the sixth with the potential tying run at the plate.
Richards threw 25 of his 95 pitches in the sixth inning, when the White Sox closed to 4-2 with a two-out RBI double by Jose Abreu. But the Angels got a run-scoring infield hit in the seventh from Shane Victorino.
Richards left in the eighth after giving up two singles. Adam Eaton drove in a run with a fielder’s choice grounder against Joe Smith, but Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save in 33 chances.
Danks (6-10) was charged with five runs – four earned – and five hits in seven innings, increasing his ERA to 4.61.
”I really felt good about how I threw the ball, but I made three mistakes and got hurt on all three,” Danks said. ”Going up against a guy like Richards, you can’t make too many mistakes. Unfortunately, I did. I feel confident going into every start. It just kind of stings to give up five runs on a night where I thought I had pretty good stuff and pretty good command to go with it.”
Danks, who held the Angels to one run through 7 1-3 innings in a no-decision at Chicago six days earlier, found himself trailing 3-0 after just 12 pitches.
He hit Victorino with his third delivery, then gave up Calhoun’s career-high 18th homer on his next pitch and surrendered Pujols’ 33rd homer and 553rd of his career one out later. Until Tuesday, no one on the Angels’ active roster had ever homered against Danks.
”I tried to get ahead of Calhoun, and he ambushed the first-pitch heater and hit it a long way,” Danks said. ”Then I hung a breaking ball to Albert – threw a softball to a Hall of Famer – and that’s not a good idea. Outside of that, I through I threw the ball pretty well.”
Pujols tied Mike Trout for the team lead in home runs. They are trying to become the first set of teammates with at least 40 homers each since Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye of the 2006 White Sox.
The Angels added an unearned run in the fourth when Johnny Giavotella doubled with two outs and scored on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Tyler Saladino after Saladino backhanded Carlos Perez’s grounder near the bag.
Kaleb Cowart, the Angels’ No.1 draft pick in 2010, made his major league debut at third base and was 0 for 3. His contract was purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake earlier Tuesday when third baseman Conor Gillaspie was designated for assignment.
Cowart was the fifth player to start at third for manager Mike Scioscia since David Freese went on the disabled list on July 23 because of a fractured right index finger. Cowart began the season with Class-A Inland Empire before he was promoted to Triple-A on June 11.
White Sox: RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-8) lost his last three starts against the Yankees, Royals and Cubs, surrendering 22 runs in 15 1-3 innings after posting consecutive road wins in which he pitched eight innings in each.
Angels: RHP Jered Weaver (4-9) will make his third start since coming off the DL. He is 0-5 with a 5.95 ERA over his last six outings, after going 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his previous five. In 12 career starts against the White Sox, he is 9-2 with a 2.15 ERA and five straight wins.