CHICAGO -- The Angels thrashed the White Sox, 9-3, on Tuesday night, but the decisive victory served as a grim reminder that, as well as they might play over the final five games of the regular season, it still might not be enough.
Despite their win, the Angels' playoff dreams continued to fade after the Twins came from behind to beat the Indians, 8-6, to trim their magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card berth to one. The Angels, who remain five games back of Minnesota, could be mathematically eliminated from contention as early as Wednesday with a loss in Chicago or a Twins victory.
But until that happens, the Angels are refusing to count themselves out.
"We're in it," said rookie right-hander Parker Bridwell, who earned the win after yielding three runs over 6 2/3 innings. "We're not out yet. As long as we've still got a chance, we've got to be optimistic. I'm excited to see where it goes. Things kind of have to fall in place for us, but you never know."
Bridwell has been one of the biggest reasons why the Angels have managed to stay in the playoff race this long despite the series of injuries that has crippled their starting rotation this season. Acquired from the Orioles in exchange for cash considerations in April, Bridwell received a chance to start regularly for the Angels following the injuries to Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs and improbably became one of the club's steadiest pitchers, logging a 3.87 ERA over 114 innings in 20 appearances, including 19 starts.
Though he struck out only one batter on Tuesday, Bridwell induced early, weak contact from the White Sox's lineup and managed to get through 6 2/3 innings on only 79 pitches. Jose Abreu inflicted the bulk of the damage against the 26-year-old right-hander with a pair of solo home runs, but Bridwell received plenty of backing from the Angels' offense, which scored six runs in the second inning on home runs from Brandon Phillips, Luis Valbuena and Michael Trout.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he believes Bridwell's success is sustainable despite the fact that he's averaging only 5.53 strikeouts per nine innings this season, the sixth-lowest rate in the Majors among pitchers who have thrown at least 100 innings.
"I think Parker has enough stuff that it's not a fluke," Scioscia said. "He's not one-dimensional. He's not just doing one thing and the league hasn't caught up with it. He's got a lot of things he does with the baseball. When he's on like he was tonight, you can see how he can miss bats and get mishits, and I think that's when he's at his best. I definitely think it's repeatable."
Bridwell is lined up to make his final start of the year in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Mariners, even though it's unlikely the Angels will still be in playoff contention by then. The Angels would have to win their final five games, the Twins would have to lose them all, and even that would simply set up Game 163 in Minnesota on Monday.
"We need help, sure, but we need to win our games," Scioscia said. "That's what our challenge is right now."