Danks' gutsy effort leads Sox past O's
Lefty overcomes wildness; Chicago 2 1/2 out in Central
CHICAGO -- Given his shaky start to Saturday's contest, it would have been a surprise to no one among the 34,730 fans in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field if White Sox pitcher John Danks never made it out of the third inning.
Heck, not even some of his teammates gave Danks much of a shot to last beyond the third with the way he was throwing.
He labored, and labored, and labored some more, fighting both his control and a recurring index finger flareup every step of the way out of the gate. Slowly but surely, however, Danks righted his rickety ship, ultimately turning a stream of boos into a standing ovation when he exited the game in the seventh inning.
Danks (11-8), who had walked five batters by the third, lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits with six total walks, as the White Sox defeated the Orioles, 4-1, to even the three-game set at one apiece. With the Tigers' 3-2 loss to the A's, the White Sox are 2 1/2 games back in the American League Central race.
Danks' escape act came after both a mound visit in the third from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and with long reliever D.J. Carrasco ready to take his spot on the hill from the bullpen.
"He couldn't find the plate," Guillen said of Danks. "He made big pitches when he had to make them. Then after that, he just turned the corner and threw the ball better and fought. This kid's a warrior. This kid goes out there, no matter what he does, he's going to give you the best he has."
Danks (11-8) walked his fifth batter of the contest when he issued a free pass to Adam Jones, loading the bases with one out in the third, and was teetering on the edge of being pulled, which would have been his shortest outing of the season.
"I was one ball away from being out of that game in the third inning," Danks said.
Rookie Gordon Beckham, who made some nice defensive plays behind Danks, including robbing Brian Roberts of a leadoff hit in the first with a leaping catch, thought Danks was headed for trouble.
"I thought he was getting out in the third inning," Beckham said. "That's kind of the way it was going. But he battled, and he didn't have his good stuff until a little bit later. He battled. That was unbelievable."
Almost miraculously, Danks escaped the third-inning, bases-loaded jam unscathed, striking out Nick Markakis swinging and inducing a popout to second of Nolan Reimold.
"Our big shot came in that inning, and it didn't happen," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I don't think we chased pitches out of the strike zone after that. Our one chance came in that inning when we had guys on and he got out of it."
Danks threw 60 pitches in the first three innings, but tossed just 26 pitches over the next three frames. Danks also retired 10 straight O's between the third and sixth innings.
Part of the reason for Danks' early struggles may have stemmed from an issue he was having with the index finger of his left pitching hand. He experienced blisters and a circulation problem a month ago, which caused him to miss a start. Saturday marked his sixth straight start in the rotation, but the problem flared up again, as television cameras captured what appeared to be a discoloration on his finger.
Danks quickly tried putting those issues to rest after the game.
"The finger's all right," Danks insisted. "It's OK. Apparently, they were showing it on TV. It wasn't nearly as bad as it looked. It's obviously still a work in progress, and I'm going to beat it. But everything was fine. I'm not going to use that as an excuse. It's just a matter of me not throwing strikes. I'll just have to get better."
White Sox left fielder Carlos Quentin gave Danks an early cushion when he launched a solo home run off Orioles starter David Hernandez (4-6) over the left-field wall in the second. It was Quentin's 14th home run of the season and the third straight contest in which he has homered.
The White Sox (63-60) padded the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Alexei Ramirez blooped a bases-loaded single into right field, scoring Jim Thome, who drew a leadoff walk. Mark Kotsay then followed with a sacrifice fly to center, plating Quentin from third for a 3-0 lead. Chicago added another run in the fifth when Jermaine Dye scored on Orioles reliever Brian Bass' wild pitch.
Danks' long night finally caught up to him in the seventh. He walked Luke Scott to lead off the frame and allowed a single to Ty Wigginton off the glove of Kotsay at first, which ended Danks' evening.
As he walked off the mound, Danks received a standing ovation for his efforts, and he appreciatively doffed his cap to the crowd. Despite his wildness, he had managed to allow just three hits, the fewest in his past 10 starts.
It was quite a favorable reversal of fortunes for the 24-year-old lefty.
"I'll tell you what, I didn't expect it in the third inning," Danks said of the cheers. "But it is great. ... I feel like I turned it around OK and gave us a chance to win, got deep in the game, saved the bullpen and it really is nice to get recognized for that."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.