White Sox 5, Angels 3

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CHICAGO (AP)—It’s hard to tell where the Chicago White Sox might be without Esteban Loaiza, who made the team as a non-roster invitee in spring training.

Right now, after his 16th victory, they’re tied for first in the AL Central.

“He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen this year,” Anaheim’s Tim Salmon said Wednesday night after the White Sox beat the Angels 5-3 and tied Kansas City for first place.

“You walk back going, `This is why he’s having a good year.’ He was putting it where he wanted with late movement. He’s just got it going right now,” Salmon added.

Loaiza (16-6) matched Toronto’s Roy Halladay for the AL lead in wins and is one behind major league leader Russ Ortiz of Atlanta.

He wasn’t sharp, allowing 10 hits in six-plus innings—including Adam Riggs’ second homer in two nights. But he struck out nine, escaping several jams while raising his record to 5-1 since he started the All-Star game for the AL.

Damaso Marte bailed him out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and pitched the final three innings, striking out five for the save.

“This is my career high for everything—victories and strikeouts (149). It’s just one of those things. If the strikeout comes, it comes,” Loaiza said.

Jose Valentin, Magglio Ordonez and Carl Everett homered as the White Sox completed a three-game sweep and tied Kansas City, which lost 8-7 to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. Minnesota, which beat Cleveland 4-3, trails by one-half game.

“Now that we got there, we need to hold on,” Valentin said of first place.

Roberto Alomar went 4-for-5—all infield hits—for the White Sox.

Chone Figgins, the Angels’ leadoff hitter, also had four hits—a career high.

He hit an RBI single in the seventh to cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2, and after Jeff DaVanon walked to load the bases with no outs, Marte replaced Loaiza.

Marte gave up a sacrifice fly to Garret Anderson to make it 4-3, then got Salmon on a fly and struck out Scott Spiezio. Marte also struck out the side in the eighth and pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save in 17 chances.

The Angels, the World Series champs who have been ravaged by injuries, fell into a tie with Texas for last place in the AL West.

“I firmly believe we would be a much better team if we had everyone healthy,” Salmon said. “When you are missing the guys we are missing, it’s going to be tough to win.”

David Eckstein went on the disabled list this week, joining Brad Fullmer, Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus, who is finished for the season.

Everett hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot off Greg Jones, to give the White Sox a two-run cushion in the bottom of the seventh.

Valentin hit his 19th homer, a two-run shot off John Lackey (8-12) in the second, and Ordonez added his 23rd in the third. Ordonez singled, stole second, moved up on a passed ball and scored on Everett’s sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 in the fifth.

Chicago’s Brian Daubach was ejected in the fifth inning by first base umpire and crew chief Mike Reilly after throwing down his helmet when he was picked off first.

Notes

Anderson, the MVP of the All-Star game at U.S. Cellular Field last month, reached 100 RBIs for the fourth straight season with his sacrifice fly. … The White Sox are 14-3 in their last 17 home games. … The Angels are 3-15 on the road since the All-Star break. … Alomar had bunt singles in his first two at-bats Wednesday night, giving him three in three at-bats. He also had one in Chicago’s seventh-inning rally Tuesday night. In his third at-bat Wednesday, he reached on an infield single off Lackey’s foot, and in his fourth at-bat, he beat out a bouncer to third with a head-first slide. … Lackey has given up 24 homers this season in 162 innings. He yielded 10 last season in 108 1-3innings.

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