Contreras' arm keeps Sox in Game 1
Right-hander's strong effort goes for naught against Angels
CHICAGO -- The standing ovation Jose Contreras received when he walked off the mound with one out in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at U.S. Cellular Field spoke volumes.
The scoreboard said more.
Despite a valiant effort by Contreras, the White Sox were defeated by the Angels, 3-2, in front of a boisterous crowd of 40,659. Contreras was charged with three runs and seven hits in 8 1/3 strong innings in the loss before yielding to Neal Cotts in the ninth.
He took no consolation in the solid outing. His team is down 0-1 in the ALCS.
"When you lose, it's always a bad outing regardless of how you pitch or how many strikeouts you have or what you threw," Contreras said.
True. But he threw well. Contreras did not walk a batter and he struck out four. Garret Anderson flied out to left fielder Scott Podsednik for the first out in the final frame. Bengie Molina's base hit to center field ended Contreras' night.
Then the stadium erupted.
"I was happy with the standing ovation, not for me, but because I thought I gave my team a chance to win," Contreras said. "Neal Cotts came out and stopped the bleeding. Any other night it might have been different, but [Angels closer] Francisco Rodriguez came out and performed the way they were supposed to."
Contreras cruised through the first inning, sitting the Angels down in order, and it appeared the strong right-hander was headed for another solid performance.
He was. It just wasn't enough.
Anderson led off the second inning with a solo home run to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. In the third, Angels center fielder Steve Finley led off the frame with a single and eventually scored on a base hit by shortstop Orlando Cabrera for a 2-0 lead. Adam Kennedy, who followed Finley with a single, scored the Angels' third run of the game on a force-out off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero.
"I don't think more than three balls were hit hard on him," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "The ball by Anderson, the home run, that's the only really well hit ball they hit against him. Jose is throwing the ball the same way first and second half. He did a tremendous job for us."
After giving up the runs, Contreras recovered to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the American League West champions, limiting the club to two hits during that span.
He was somewhat pleased in his performance. He was also somewhat regretful.
"Falling behind on Garret Anderson, such a great hitter," Contreras said. "You attack him the wrong way and you are going to get hurt. After that, I wasn't locating the ball the way I was the first couple of batters and they got back-to-back hits. I got myself in trouble."
Joe Crede hit a home run off Angels starter Paul Byrd in the third inning. In the fourth, Carl Everett hit a single and came home on a single by A.J. Pierzynski for the home team's second score to cut the Angels' lead to one run, 3-2.
"That's baseball," Contreras said. "Runs are runs, regardless of how you give them up. If it's a home run or a groundout or a play that needs to be made. That's part of the game."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.