Danks delivers gem as Sox blank Cubs
Baserunning, power and 'D' complement spotless start
CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen and his team had the right stuff working on Sunday, as the White Sox defeated the Cubs, 6-0, in front of 39,745 -- the largest crowd of the season -- at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox rattled Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano with timely hitting and an aggressive attack on the basepaths. On the other side of the mound, the South Siders received a sparkling effort from pitcher John Danks, who beat the North Siders' ace and shut down their offense for the second time in less than two weeks.
Danks limited the Cubs to just four hits, three of them singles. He lasted seven innings, striking out five and walking four. Danks, who defeated the Cubs, 4-1, on June 17 at Wrigley Field, has tossed 14 innings against them this year, allowing one run while striking out 14.
"I didn't throw as many strikes this time around," Danks said, "but I feel like I was still able to make the big pitch when I had to and guys were making plays all over the field for me."
Danks ran into his biggest troubles with his team leading, 3-0, in the top of the sixth inning. Alfonso Soriano led off with a double down the left-field line. Later in the inning, Danks walked Derrek Lee and Jake Fox, loading the bases with two out.
That brought to the plate Geovany Soto, who bounced a shot to deep short that would have scored two runners and cut the deficit to 3-2. But Alexei Ramirez made a spectacular inning-ending play, backhanding the ball deep in the hole and throwing to Gordon Beckham at third for the force out of Lee.
Ramirez, who homered in the third inning, had experienced some struggles in the field the past few games. He leads the team in errors with 10. Ramirez spoke with Beckham before the play to be ready for a play at third.
"We're good at sign language because we don't [speak] the same language," Beckham said. "But basically, we made the motion that if it's hit hard at him or in the hole, that I would get to third. I gave him the time to make sure I'd get there. And it worked out. As soon as that ball was hit, I went to third to get the out."
Danks threw 110 pitches, 62 for strikes, and he credited catcher A.J. Pierzynski for getting him through the difficult stages of the game.
Zambrano had nothing but compliments for Danks after the game.
"Sometimes the other pitcher comes with his best stuff and there's nothing you can do about it," Zambrano said. "He was pitching good today. He was mixing his pitches and throwing a good fastball and a great changeup like he always has. If you don't get a lucky hit against Danks when he's pitching good, what are you going to do?"
Offensively, the White Sox backed Danks by executing in little ways, as Guillen had hoped they would all season.
In the fourth inning, the White Sox scored on a perfectly performed hit-and-run with Dewayne Wise at the plate. The play was set up courtesy of back-to-back singles from Pierzynski and Beckham, who was running on the pitch that Wise grounded to the right of second base. Cubs second baseman Andres Blanco, who was headed for second with Beckham, was forced to dive back toward first but couldn't come up with the ball cleanly. Wise reached on a single and Pierzynski scored easily from third.
In the sixth, the White Sox plated two more to establish a comfortable 5-0 cushion. Chris Getz began the frame by doubling to right, ending an 0-for-24 skid, and moved to third on Beckham's sacrifice bunt. With Wise at the plate, Getz took off for home on a suicide-squeeze attempt, but Zambrano threw wide of the plate -- and catcher Soto -- on a pitchout attempt, hitting the backstop and allowing Getz to score.
It was ruled a stolen base, the first White Sox steal of home since Pablo Ozuna on Sept. 8, 2005, against the Royals.
On the very next pitch, Zambrano plunked Wise in the backside with a pitch, prompting words between Zambrano and Wise and a few White Sox players emerging a few steps out of the dugout.
Calm was restored soon thereafter. Zambrano's day, however, was all but done.
Zambrano lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits. According to Guillen, the White Sox success stemmed from an attempt to be as aggressive as possible to keep Zambrano guessing.
"To beat Carlos, whoever gets on base needs to try to move around," Guillen said. "Because if you're going to wait for a big inning, that's not going to happen because he's so good. He's so great. He's one of the best pitchers in the National League. If you don't try to move people around, try to make stuff happen, it's not going to happen."
Jermaine Dye added his team-leading 18th home run on a solo shot in the eighth inning to account for the final margin.
During the week, the White Sox took two of three games from the Dodgers, who hold the best record in the Majors and two of three from the Cubs in the Crosstown Showdown.
Is it safe to say Guillen's team has turned the proverbial corner as it enters a 13-game stretch against American League Central opponents?
"No," Guillen said. "Because every time I feel that way, my heart's been broken. Big time. I'm going to take it one day at a time and try to move on real sneaky and quiet and see where we are in September."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.