Danks stellar in series finale
White Sox ride left-hander's start, two solo homers to victory
CLEVELAND -- White Sox fans officially can climb off the proverbial ledge, and those growing sounds of panic now should be silenced.
At least on the South Side of Chicago. At least for one afternoon.
"Well, we expected to win a game before the season was over," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, drawing a laugh from the media, after watching his team take a tautly played, 2-1 victory over the Indians in 2 hours, 27 minutes to avoid a season-opening three-game sweep at Progressive Field.
"Yeah, because you want to get a win before the end of the season," added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in a slightly sarcastic tone, when asked if Thursday afternoon's victory was an important one. "It was a well-pitched game by both teams, really."
Thursday's victory went to Octavio Dotel, who retired Casey Blake on a fly ball to center field off of his slider with two outs, runners on second and third and the game tied at one in the seventh. It was Blake's three-run, eighth-inning double off of a poorly located fastball that made a loser of Dotel in the season opener.
But the unofficial victory, if such a statistic exists, belongs to John Danks. The second-year veteran was as dominant as he's been since reaching the Majors in a game where the White Sox needed their starter to last a while.
Through five innings, Danks kept a Cleveland offense that had scored 17 runs over the first two games of this series hitless. He watched his little piece of history evaporate via Blake's leadoff single in the sixth. The southpaw worked 6 2/3 innings, with one run allowed on two hits, but he deserved a better fate. Cleveland scored its one run in the seventh on a one-out walk to Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko's double that barely eluded Jermaine Dye's reach in right.
Regardless of the personal outcome, Danks was satisfied with his 2008 debut. His teammates felt the same way.
"Danks was as good as I've seen him in the two years he's been here," Pierzynski said.
"He didn't really surprise me," added White Sox third baseman Joe Crede of Danks, who threw 55 of his 87 pitches for strikes, striking out two and walking two. "I've seen him throw this well before in the past. John is a great pitcher, and I think a lot of people are going to expect a lot of great things from him because he's so good."
Jake Westbrook matched Danks against the White Sox offense, limiting the visitors to six hits over 7 1/3 innings while walking one and fanning three. Two of those hits cleared the fences, one long ball coming from Juan Uribe leading off the sixth and the second -- which proved to be the game-winner -- delivered by Crede to open the eighth.
It was Crede's first home run since he went deep against Jason Marquis on May 19, 2007, at Wrigley Field. Thursday's 381-foot blast down the left-field line simply added to the third baseman's legend as the organization's top hitter in the clutch.
"That was very gratifying to go out and help your team win in a situation like it was today," Crede said. "There weren't many hits spread around."
"Every time Crede comes in with the game on the line, it seems like he always does something," Guillen said. "One thing about Crede, when he come up in those situations, he never panics. He does his stuff, and that's why he has so much success with the game on the line."
After Dotel wriggled out of trouble set up in part by a Nick Swisher error in the seventh -- when Swisher and Dye collided on Franklin Gutierrez's fly ball -- Scott Linebrink cruised through a perfect eighth on 17 pitches. Bobby Jenks did the same in the ninth, on 11 pitches, picking up his first save and the 88th of his career.
Watching Jenks keep hitters off balance, as he did to Jhonny Peralta, Hafner and Garko on Thursday, has become a common expectation for the White Sox. Seeing that same effective job executed in the eighth was a feeling that has escaped them for a while.
"Finally, we get someone out in the eighth," Guillen said. "It [seems like it has] been two years since any team [hasn't scored] on us in the eighth inning. Everything worked perfect for us today."
"There were certainly some jitters coming into it, being with a new team, in new ballparks, different hitters," Linebrink said. "Hopefully, this is the first of many."
Guillen's crew now moves on to Comerica Park, where they'll face a reeling Detroit team, both in the win-loss column and in regard to keeping healthy bodies on the field. The White Sox will hope to produce the same sort of textbook effort as Thursday, with the addition of a little more offense.
Even without a personal victory for his eighth straight start dating back to July 16, 2007, Danks couldn't argue with the ultimate results. Even without a victory in their first two games, the White Sox leave Cleveland with a sense of satisfaction.
"I told Mark [Buehrle] that I'll take 10 of 10 no-decisions as long as there are no losses in there," Danks said. "The wins will come if I keep pitching well."
"To start off losing your first two, I think there was already a little bit of panic starting to set in," Linebrink added. "I know all these guys in here have confidence in their ability, and we're going to get our wins. But yeah, it was nice to get this one out of the way."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.