CHICAGO -- The Angels' playoff hopes continued to dim on Monday night, as they dropped to five games out of the American League Wild Card race with a 4-2 series-opening loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
James Shields allowed two runs over seven innings, and Nicky Delmonico went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to hand the Angels the seventh loss in their last eight games. The Halos (77-79), who slid two games below .500 for the first time since Aug. 8, are now on the brink of elimination, as their defeat caused the idle Twins' magic number to clinch a Wild Card berth to fall to two with six games left to play.
"We're in a tough spot, but that's why we play until Oct. 1," Angels left fielder Justin Upton said. "All we can do is try to play our best baseball for these last six games and see what happens."
Shields, who gave up only an RBI single to Martin Maldonado in the second and a solo home run to Mike Trout in the fifth, matched a season high for strikeouts and innings pitched. He has three wins in his past four decisions.
"I don't know if it's improved, but I'm having the results I want," said Shields, who altered his pitching style 10 starts ago to attack hitters from different angles. "It's still a work in progress, but it feels pretty good. Every game, I figure some new stuff out with my delivery, and it's been working."
Said Trout: "It was definitely a different Shields. He was moving the ball around tonight. He was keeping guys off-balance."
Ricky Nolasco lasted only five innings for the Angels, yielding four runs (two earned) on seven hits while walking one and striking out four. The veteran right-hander was hurt by a couple of mistakes by the Angels' defense in the first and third innings, which both led to runs for the White Sox.
"As the game went on, Ricky's stuff got better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "After the second, third inning, he started to throw the ball well. It looked like he had better command, a little better velocity. Just had a little trouble in the sixth inning, but he didn't pitch as bad as some of the numbers [indicate]."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Angels' costly miscues: The White Sox were able to capitalize on a couple of defensive misplays by the Angels. After Yolmer Sanchez led off the bottom of the first with a single, Tim Anderson tapped a grounder to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who fired a throw that went wide of second and put runners on second and third with no outs for Chicago. Nolasco retired the next two batters, but then surrendered a two-run double to Delmonico that gave the White Sox an early 2-0 lead.
In the third, Avisail Garcia lifted a fly ball to left field that appeared catchable, but Upton lost it in the lights, allowing Garcia to come away with a leadoff triple. Matt Davidson then drove in Garcia with a sacrifice fly, extending the White Sox's lead to 3-1.
"I took off and I could see it, and then when I got to a certain angle, it just went in the lights," Upton said. "It is what it is. It's part of the game."
No. 30 for Trout: Trout launched a 457-foot solo shot to center field off Shields to trim the deficit to 3-2 in the fifth. The Angels' center fielder became the 10th player in Major League history to post at least four 30-homer campaigns by his age-25 season and the first since Miguel Cabrera in 2008.
"It's pretty cool, but we lost, so it's disappointing," Trout said. "That was a tough loss."
"You can't throw a ball down the middle to that guy. It was a cement-mixer slider," Shields said. "I didn't really execute my pitch too well. You can't make a mistake to that guy, especially with two outs. He's an incredible ballplayer and a great dude, too. I know him pretty well. He's a good player, good overall ambassador for baseball."
"I'm revamping every year. This being my 12th season, you're always trying to refine your game every year, no matter what, whether it's a pitch or a mechanical adjustment." -- Shields, on changing his pitching approach
THE STREAK IS OVER
The White Sox ended a seven-game losing streak against the Angels, with their last head-to-head win coming on April 20, 2016, at home.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Rookie right-hander Parker Bridwell (8-3, 3.86) will start for the Angels on Tuesday night as they continue their four-game series against the White Sox at 5:10 p.m. PT at Guaranteed Rate Field. Bridwell, who was charged with the loss in his last start Thursday after allowing four runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Indians, will make his first career appearance against the White Sox.
White Sox: The White Sox will hand the ball to Chris Volstad for their 7:10 p.m. CT matchup. The veteran Volstad is set to make his first start since Oct. 2, 2012, when he worked seven innings for the Cubs in a 3-0 loss to the Astros. He gets the start with Carson Fulmer moved back to Saturday (in Cleveland) due to a blister on his right index finger.