Saunders took a shutout into the ninth inning, Torii Hunter homered and the Los Angeles Angels hung on to beat the White Sox 3-1 Friday night, snapping Chicago's eight-game winning streak.
"I felt terrible," Saunders said. "I just battled through it."
Gavin Floyd (4-3) took the loss despite holding the Angels to three hits in his first career complete game. He had a rocky fifth inning, when Hunter hit a solo shot. The right-hander also hit Maicer Izturis and Gary Matthews Jr. with bases-loaded pitches.
That was enough for Saunders (8-1), who is emerging as a star after splitting the past two seasons with the Angels and Triple-A Salt Lake. He needed just 10 starts to match last year's win total and moved into a tie with Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka for the American League lead in victories.
Then, he had trouble explaining his turnaround.
"I don't know," Saunders said. "It's weird. ... I'm not trying to pick as much as I did in the past. I'm really trying to go after guys."
The left-hander shut down Chicago despite the flulike symptoms that kept him from pitching at Toronto on Thursday, holding the AL Central leaders to one run and three hits in a career-high 8 1-3 innings. He left with a 3-0 lead after former Angel Orlando Cabrera led off with a single and moved to second on A.J. Pierzynski's groundout.
Francisco Rodriguez came in and walked Carlos Quentin on four pitches before Jermaine Dye delivered an RBI single to left. Rodriguez then struck out Jim Thome and Joe Crede for his 20th save in 21 opportunities, jumping and raising both arms after the final out.
"You have to give (Rodriguez) credit, he made some good pitches," Thome said. "But we battled. We battled but it just didn't work out. Saunders pitched a nice game himself, you have to credit him."
Saunders lobbied to stay in the game, but manager Mike Scioscia signaled to the bullpen almost as soon as he popped out of the dugout. With his pitch count at 99 and one of the best closers ready, he had no chance.
"If he got (Cabrera) out and got Pierzynski out, he might have been able to finish that game," Scioscia said.
Saunders has several close calls, going at least eight innings in five starts. He's averaging seven per outing.
The White Sox had not lost since the Angels beat them 2-0 on May 13. They took the final two games of that series to salvage a four-game split and start their longest win streak since they won nine in a row from June 15-24, 2006. But after sweeping San Francisco and Cleveland, Chicago couldn't get much going against Saunders.
Floyd struck out three and walked four. He faced the minimum 13 batters before running into trouble with one out in the fifth.
Hunter, courted by the White Sox as a free agent in the offseason, sent the first pitch about halfway up the stands in left-center for his sixth homer this season - and his 23rd lifetime against Chicago. Floyd's problems resumed after Casey Kotchman fouled out, when Mike Napoli walked, Robb Quinlan singled and Sean Rodriguez walked to load the bases.
Floyd then hit Izturis on the right elbow and Matthews Jr. on the ankle on consecutive pitches to make it 3-0 before Vladimir Guerrero - the inning's ninth batter - bounced into a force on the first pitch.
"I felt like I was getting better as the game went on," Floyd said. "It was just that one inning that I wish I could eliminate."
He settled down, but was a tough-luck loser against Saunders.
Fifth in the AL with a 2.48 ERA when the night began, Saunders escaped trouble in the first after Cabrera led off with a walk and Pierzynski laid down a bunt single.
"I thought it would be a rough night," Saunders said.
Notes: Chicago's Paul Konerko, who's been bothered by a sore right hand for more than three weeks, will only be available for pinch-hitting the next few days. So the White Sox placed 2B Juan Uribe on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring and purchased OF DeWayne Wise's contract from Triple-A Charlotte. ... The Angels held third baseman Chone Figgins, who returned from the 15-day DL on Wednesday, out of the lineup for the second straight day after his right hamstring flared up in Toronto. He is expected to play this weekend. ... RHP Jered Weaver rejoined the team in Chicago after being absent during the Angels' three-game series in Toronto. Weaver had been experiencing some discomfort in his stomach.