White Sox tough out win at McAfee
Danks allows just one run despite a career high in walks
OAKLAND -- Even those rare victories achieved by the White Sox at the unfriendly confines known as McAfee Coliseum wouldn't exactly be considered textbook efforts.
Take Saturday's 2-1 win over Oakland as an example, an edge-of-their-seat performance keeping the White Sox (69-53) tied with Minnesota atop the American League Central standings.
In seven of the nine innings, the White Sox put the leadoff hitter on base. All the South Siders got for their effort was 13 men stranded and a 2-for-13 performance with runners in scoring position.
John Danks reached double-digits in victories, picking up his seventh win in the last eight decisions. But Danks (10-5) didn't get the job done without a little extra work.
He threw 108 pitches over six innings, including a quick eight-pitch sixth to end his afternoon with a flourish. Danks also made the pitches needed to keep the game under control, and the offense delivered just enough key hits against Greg Smith (5-12) and four Oakland relievers to lift the White Sox to an overwhelming 7-28 mark at McAfee since the start of 2001.
"Every time we come here, you always think something is going to happen in a negative way," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his team's fourth victory in five games. "We've got to try to not think that way.
"It was an ugly game, but we won. I don't know how we did it. It might be a good sign for tomorrow and the future."
Working without his best control, Danks deserves credit for almost outlasting one of the more patient offensive attacks in all of baseball. The southpaw put at least one runner on base in every inning but the sixth, and still exited with just one run allowed on six hits, while fanning five.
Saturday's major trouble spot for Danks stemmed from issuing a career-high five walks, after giving up a mere 38 free passes in his previous 144 1/3 innings. Those free passes almost cost Danks in the fourth, when Rajai Davis opened with a double, moved to third on Cliff Pennington's sacrifice bunt and then remained at third as both Mark Ellis and Kurt Suzuki drew bases on balls. Facing Frank Thomas with the bases loaded, one out and protecting a one-run lead isn't exactly ideal for any southpaw, but Danks induced an inning-ending double play by the Big Hurt to Juan Uribe, who stepped on third and fired to first.
Thomas had been unsuccessful against Danks' changeup in two previous at-bats. But Danks stayed with the fastball to end the threat on this occasion.
"I'm pretty sure the last thing he thought I was going to do was throw him four straight fastballs in, but we did that," Danks said. "Fortunately, he mishit a ball for a double play. That's kind of how the whole day went.
"You never want to have five walks. It was a struggle, to say the least. I was one pitch away just about every inning, except the sixth, to having them blow the thing wide open."
That pitch never came for Oakland (56-66). The A's loaded the bases with nobody out in the third, only to have Danks get Bobby Crosby to line into a double play to Uribe, who doubled off Thomas at third. Danks retired Daric Barton on a ground ball to second baseman Alexei Ramirez to end the frame.
"He might not have had his best stuff, but he was changing speeds once again and he was pitching," Toby Hall added. "He threw a lot of stuff behind in the count and did great."
The bullpen trio of D.J. Carrasco, Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks (25th save) held Oakland hitless over the final three innings. In fact, Davis' leadoff double in the fourth was the last hit of the game for the A's.
Uribe doubled home Paul Konerko for the White Sox first run coming off of Smith during a two-run second, and Hall followed with a run-scoring single to right. Carlos Quentin reached base four times, with a double, a single and two walks, but on the other end of the spectrum, Nick Swisher's second day of his Oakland homecoming wasn't quite as auspicious. He finished 0-for-4 with a walk and dropped a fly ball in center.
Swisher had to battle the sun on a fly ball by Emil Brown to center with two outs in the eighth and pinch-runner Eric Patterson on second. In the past, that ball probably would have dropped somewhere in the outfield, leading to a game-winning rally for the A's.
On Saturday, Swisher made a basket catch to end the threat.
Unorthodox? Yes. Ugly? According to Guillen, yes, again. But a win counts in any shape or form during a drive to the playoffs, especially when it's the White Sox playing in Oakland. Saturday's escape act and the White Sox long run of bad luck in the Bay Area actually gave Guillen pause for thought as to the true meaning behind the name for Oakland's home ballpark.
"I just wonder why they call this place the Coliseum before," said Guillen with a laugh. "Maybe every time everybody comes here, they get ready to be killed."
"They're a tough team," added Danks, who improved to 6-1 on the road this season and 4-0 lifetime against the A's with a 1.38 ERA. "They are patient, they make you throw strikes and it was shown today. It's always good to win here in Oakland. We haven't done that much over the last few years."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.