ANAHEIM -- Dan Haren rolled through the White Sox in the first inning on Saturday night, striking out the side with split-fingered fastballs. As good as that felt, he was about to feel even better.
For the eighth time this season, the Angels produced four first-inning runs, holding on for a 4-2 decision that left the White Sox a half-game ahead of the Tigers in the American League Central.
The victory enabled the Angels to move within 2 1/2 games of the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card playoff spot. The Orioles have a two-game advantage over the A's.
"The only way we're going to get to our goal is to keep winning," Mike Scioscia said, hours after owner Arte Moreno ended widespread media speculation and told MLB.com that the manager would be back in 2013 for a 14th season. "Some teams have to come back to us. Ten games, that doesn't seem like many. But it can be an eternity."
The reigning World Series champion Cardinals and Rays proved 12 months ago that it's never over until it's over, as a famous baseball philosopher once said.
Haren moved to 12-11 with the win in front of 40,440 at Angel Stadium. He worked six-plus innings and was charged with two earned runs on six hits and a walk, striking out four. He has won four of his past five starts.
"We're really positive," Haren said. "It's really a testament to the leaders on the team. Torii [Hunter] has been outspoken. He has made his point across to all of us that until we're either eliminated or in the playoffs, we've got to keep pushing. We had a bunch of tough losses, but we've come back and played well."
With four consecutive losses and the Tigers breathing down their necks, the White Sox felt the sting of this one. Jose Quintana yielded four runs in five innings but only one was earned, owing to his own error on a bunt by Erick Aybar following Mike Trout's leadoff walk in the first.
Albert Pujols doubled home a run, Hunter singled home another, and Mark Trumbo rammed a two-out, two-run single to right field that proved to be decisive.
"Quintana kept us in the game, gave us a chance," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "After the first inning, with all the crazy things going on, he settled down. We just didn't score enough runs.
"We hit a lot of balls hard and made some nice plays but that's how baseball goes. Had a chance in the ninth inning and it didn't work out."
Ernesto Frieri, who has been hurt by the long ball recently in giving up late leads, finished it for Haren for his 20th save. Frieri struck out Pierzynski with a 97 mph heater and retired Dewayne Wise on a fine running catch by shortstop Aybar to end it after Alex Rios' one-out single.
In the first, after Pujols' double to left -- No. 500 of his career -- and Hunter's single to left, Howie Kendrick walked. That set the stage for Trumbo's bullet to right, giving him 89 runs batted in.
Scioscia was encouraged by Trumbo's at-bat, seeing signs that the big guy is getting back to his earlier form.
"His at-bats are getting better," Scioscia said. "No doubt he feels more comfortable. He just needs to get back to squaring a ball up and not caring where it's going. He was on a lot of pitches tonight."
Hunter liked Trumbo's approach, reminding him of a slugger from another era with a similar build.
"He's getting his foot down and staying balanced -- kind of like Mark McGwire," Hunter said. "He's so strong. Keep it simple."
Quintana, a 23-year-old lefty, has had a solid season for the White Sox. The Angels did their video work.
"Never faced him before, but we had a plan: stay inside the cutter and hit it," Hunter said. "My first at-bat, I hit a cutter in. We got on him right away. Aybar bunted and he fumbled it because of his speed. Albert got the double, I got the hit, Trumbo went the other way for a big hit.
"We did it early. Lately, we've been doing it."
Paul Konerko launched his 24th homer of the season leading off the second inning, turning on a Haren split that didn't dip. Undaunted, Haren used his various resources to silence the White Sox into the seventh.
"That's a tough lineup, power throughout," Haren said. "My split was working in the first inning -- all three strikeouts were with the split -- and I went to other pitches as it went along. Whether it's 86 or 91, I'm focusing on keeping the ball down. It's location for me."
Quintana (6-5) worked out of jams in the third and fourth inning. Overly zealous baserunning by Alberto Callaspo cost the Angels in the third, just as Hunter had in the first.
The Angels loaded the bases with none out in the fourth, a chance to break it open, but Quintana struck out Aybar and erased Pujols and Hunter on grounders. White Sox manager Robin Ventura was ejected for disputing a balk call in the inning.
Garrett Richards left a runner stranded at third in the seventh, getting three straight groundouts with runners at second and third and none out after Nick Maronde yielded a double to Pierzynski following Rios' leadoff single that ended Haren's outing.
The back end of the Angels' bullpen got it done.
Scott Downs worked the eighth, striking out two of the men he faced.
In Scioscia's closer by committee operation, Frieri was the finisher.
"We felt Ernesto was the man who matched up well," Scioscia said. "Ernie's been there all year. He had a few rough outings, but tonight he found another gear."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.