Danks masterful in shutout of Angels
Lefty takes no-hitter into seventh in duel with Santana
CHICAGO -- Maybe it's a good thing John Danks didn't complete his no-hit bid during the White Sox 1-0 whitewash of the Angels on Thursday afternoon, finishing off a four-game series sweep before 27,734 at U.S. Cellular Field and the team's fifth straight win overall.
After all, the White Sox fortunes dipped drastically in both 2007 and late in 2009 after Mark Buehrle's no-hitter and perfect game. The alleged curse became a running joke for manager Ozzie Guillen during this past offseason, who when asked what he wanted to see from Buehrle in the upcoming season, comically replied, "Please, not another no-hitter or perfect game."
But everything else about Danks' effort against the Angels (46-42) would make his mentor in the starting rotation proud.
Danks (8-7) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning for the second time in his career, losing his shot at history when Reggie Willits opened the frame with a single between third baseman Omar Vizquel and shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Willits' single was followed by Howard Kendrick's single to center, but those were the only two hits allowed by Danks during his second career complete game and first career shutout.
In the remaining eight innings worked by Danks, he permitted one baserunner via a Vizquel error on a Cory Aldridge grounder with two outs in the third. This pitchers' duel between Danks and Angels starter Ervin Santana (8-7) checked in at a crisply-played one hour, 50 minutes, marking the White Sox quickest game in three years.
Pitchers often act off superstition when working on a no-hitter by either not talking to their teammates or not thinking about what could be transpiring. Danks spoke candidly after the victory about how the no-hitter crossed his mind in the fifth inning.
"Anyone that says they don't think about it is a liar," said Danks, who struck out seven in the 111-pitch gem. "You know immediately what's going on out there.
"Actually, as weird as it sounds, it was pretty fortunate that it was a 1-0 game because you can't get ahead of yourself. The job at hand is still to win the ballgame. As nice as it would have been to throw a no-hitter, the main priority is to win the ballgame."
When the no-hitter disappeared, Danks had to deal with the victory and pitch out of a first-and-third, one-out jam. He handled that issue without a problem, inducing Mike Napoli's popout to second baseman Gordon Beckham and making a nice leaping grab and perfect throw to first on Juan Rivera's hard-hit grounder back to the mound.
Guillen had nobody warming up in the eighth or ninth. With the bullpen taxed due to Jake Peavy's early injury exit on Tuesday, not to mention Wednesday's late finish following a rain delay of two hours and 20 minutes, this game belonged to Danks.
Completing the victory on a strikeout of Kendrick also set up the White Sox for their final first-half series against the Royals this weekend.
"This could have been the biggest game we had this year for a few reasons," Guillen said. "I didn't want to overuse the guys out of the bullpen, they've been up for three or four days in a row to help us to win. This game just didn't count for today, it counts for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, to give those guys out of the bullpen a little bit of a break."
"As a hitter, you always want there to be a lot of hitting. You don't want to see too many pitchers' duels," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "Today, I think both teams would agree that's what the doctor ordered and luckily we came out ahead."
Konerko's sacrifice fly in the first scored Juan Pierre with the game's lone run. Pierre was hit by a pitch and moved to third on Alex Rios' one-out double. The White Sox managed just three hits in Santana's complete-game performance.
"Santana was as good as John was," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who gave high praise to Danks' effort and said Danks had the best slider he's featured in a while. "We just got that run early in the first and made it stand up."
"He was definitely on his game," said Willits of Danks. "Every at-bat I had I was trying to battle. He kept making good pitches."
Thursday's win marked the White Sox first four-game sweep since July 5-8, 2008, against Cleveland and the first against the Angels since Sept. 22-25, 1983, in California. The last time the White Sox swept four at home from the Angels came from Sept. 8-11, 1983. The White Sox are 11-1 in their last 12 games at home and 22-5 over their last 27 games in total.
Detroit maintains its first-place hold in the American League Central, but the White Sox moved to within one-half game of the idle Tigers. Grabbing first place before the All-Star break seemed like a fantasy one month ago, when the White Sox sat 9 1/2 games back, but now could become a reality if the South Siders take care of the Royals.
Meanwhile, Danks' reward for pitching arguably his best game since the AL Central playoff victory over the Twins on Sept. 30, 2008, the team's last 1-0 home victory, was a round of golf with Buehrle. They could compare notes on fast-paced games, with Danks setting the bar for his mentor, who pitches Friday.
"A day like today, you don't want your defense standing around," Danks said. "A.J. did a great job. I just followed his lead. I was just getting the ball and whatever he put down, it seemed to be the same pitch I wanted to throw. Fortunately, it was the right pitch most of the time."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.