Angels face White Sox with playoff hopes on life support

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Angels' playoff hopes remain alive -- barely -- just in time for the final stretch.

By beating the Houston Astros 7-5 on Sunday night, the Angeles snapped their six-game losing streak and remained 4 1/2 games back of the Minnesota Twins for the second American League wild card. Seven games remain in the regular season for Los Angeles.

Needing victories and help from other teams to stay in the race, the Angels (77-78) will face the rebuilding Chicago White Sox (63-92) in the opener of a four-game series Monday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

"You gotta win out," Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs said Sunday night. "We know that. We gotta stay loose, play free. Nothing to lose. We're playing the White Sox. I'm not saying they are not as good a team as the Indians and Astros, but those are winnable games."

The Angels' scheduled Monday starter, Ricky Nolasco (6-14, 5.06 ERA), is winless in his past six starts. In his most recent outing, the right-hander gave up two runs in five innings against AL Central champion Cleveland. Nolasco is 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in eight career starts against the White Sox.

Chicago will counter with right-hander James Shields (4-7, 5.40 ERA). In his latest outing, Shields took his first loss in three starts, giving up three runs in 5 2/3 innings against the AL West champion Astros. However, he avoided allowing a home run for just the third time in 20 starts this season.

Shields started throw from a three-quarters angle during his Aug. 5 start at Boston. Since then, he is 2-4 with a 4.56 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 11 home runs allowed in 53 1/3 innings. In comparison, he started the season with a 6.19 ERA with 15 home runs allowed in 56 2/3 innings.

"I know he's wanted to do better," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. "Making the adjustments he has made, he's made himself again a major league pitcher that gives his club an opportunity by containing the opponents to a particular number of runs."

Shields is 6-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 14 career starts against Los Angeles. Three of those outings have been complete games, including his last start against the Angels on July 16, 2016. He has thrown 11 quality starts and recorded at least 10 strikeouts twice versus the Angels.

In mid-May, the Angels swept the White Sox in three games in Los Angeles.

On Sunday, led by Luis Valbuena's go-ahead double in the seventh inning, Los Angeles' offense broke out. The Angels had been outscored 29-13 during their six-game losing streak.

"Anything can happen," Angels second baseman Brandon Phillips told the Orange County Register. "It's not over. I tell everybody just to believe in ourselves."

After facing the White Sox, who hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Detroit Tigers for fourth place in the AL Central, the Angels play host to the AL West's fourth-place team, the Seattle Mariners, for three games.

Having taken two of three against the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, the young White Sox could avoid losing 100 games and stay out of last place in the division.

"Everybody is grinding and hustling the way they are supposed to do," Chicago outfielder Avisail Garcia said. "That's big for the team. This team is going to be interesting for the future, so I can't wait for that."
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