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ANGELS' OFFENSE GOES LONG IN WIN ANGELS 6, CHICAGO WHITE SOX 1.

Byline: Joe Haakenson Staff Writer

CHICAGO - The Angels built this year's team on pitching and defense, and they're learning that it doesn't hurt to mix in a home run or two.

Or four.

The Angels hit four home runs, including three in the first inning, to jump out to an early lead, then rode the arm of right-hander John Lackey to a 6-1 victory in front of 29,321 at U.S. Cellular Field, completing a three-game sweep of the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox.

The Angels increased their lead in the American League West to two games over the Oakland A's, who lost Sunday at Cleveland. With 20 games remaining, the Angels' magic number to clinch the division (any combination of Angels wins and A's losses) is 19.

Chone Figgins set the tone with a home run to lead off the game, but he was more excited about his stolen base in the seventh inning, his 50th of the season. He is the first Angel to steal 50 bases since Luis Polonia swiped 55 in 1993. The club record is 70, set in 1975 by Mickey Rivers.

``I went around thanking my teammates,'' Figgins said. ``If those guys aren't taking pitches so I can run, I wouldn't get the opportunities. More importantly, I'm shooting for 100 runs (he has 96), because that means I'm getting on base.''

Garret Anderson also homered in the first inning, the 222nd of his career, tying him with Brian Downing for second on the Angels' all-time list, behind Tim Salmon (290).

After White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand robbed Vladimir Guerrero of a home run, Darin Erstad hit the Angels' third homer of the inning off White Sox starter Orlando Hernandez (9-8).

Guerrero eventually hit one, connecting in the eighth for his team-leading 29th homer of the season.

Lackey had a 3-0 lead when he took the mound in the bottom of the first, and he said it made all the difference in the world.

``The biggest key today was the guys gave me a cushion,'' said Lackey (12-5), who threw seven shutout innings. ``I was able to use a little bit more of the plate than usual, and they hit some balls hard at people.''

Steve Finley started in center field for the second game in a row, the first time he has started in consecutive games since Aug. 18-19. He responded with two hits and has four hits in his past two games.

``I'm back to the old swing I had - it's what I've been waiting for,'' Finley said. ``The day (manager Mike Scioscia) told me I was going to be sitting out for a while in Tampa, I found a little something in my swing and I've been working on it. I'm glad I finally got two games in a row. I hope now it's something that can click.''

Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher also used the word ``click'' when talking about the offense, but he said the Angels can't rely on the home run to make their offense work, particularly playing half their games at Angel Stadium.

``We have to grind it out to score runs,'' Hatcher said. ``The organization has built the strength around our pitching, and they've done a great job.

``Our park is not a home run park. A guy like Orlando Cabrera is telling me he'd have 10 more home runs - it gets frustrating for guys sometimes. If you're playing in a park like this one (U.S. Cellular) or Boston, you'd see things would be different.''

After Guerrero's homer gave the Angels a 6-0 lead in the top of the eighth, Scioscia went to the bullpen. Jason Christiansen and Brendan Donnelly combined to throw a scoreless eighth, and Greg Jones got the first two outs of the ninth before yielding a solo homer to Juan Uribe.

``(Lackey) wasn't as sharp as we've seen him,'' Scioscia said. ``He threw a lot of pitches early, and then he settled in. I thought he kept his composure, and he pitched. You look at the linescore and see seven scoreless innings and say he breezed, but it wasn't easy.''

Joe Haakenson, (626) 962-8811

joe.haakenson(at)sgvn.com

CAPTION(S):

photo, 3 boxes

Photo:

Chone Figgins leads off the Angels' game Sunday with a home run off Chicago's Orlando Hernandez.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Box:

(1) ANGELS at SEATTLE

- Joe Haakenson

(2) ALMANAC

(3) AL: TEIXEIRA'S HOMER IS COSTLY FOR A'S
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 12, 2005
Words:744
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