The White Sox started off the weekday series in a good way Monday night, defeating the Tigers 3-1 in Motown and moving back to .500 at 10-10. With Chris Sale heading to the disabled list and the starters for the next two games being Charlie Leesman and Andre Rienzo, the team needed this win tonight. Behind John Danks, the Sox secured that.
Danks Does It Again
With each passing start, John Danks is looking more and more like the player we saw a few years ago. The left-hander tossed his fourth quality start in as many outings this season, going 6.1 innings and limiting the vaunted Tigers offense to one run on six hits, three walks, and one strikeout. He’s now 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA.
One thing that made Danks solid from 2008-2011 was his competitive edge and ability to make big pitches in key spots. That was on display early tonight, as Danks found himself in a tough spot in the bottom of the second. After a Torii Hunter single and two walks to start the frame, Danks got a ground ball and two infield pop-ups to escape the bases loaded, no out situation with just one run. We all know that Danks has some stones, and it’s good to see things starting to be like the good ol’ days for him.
Yes, strikeouts are the sexy pitching stat, and Danks had just one of those and just 15 on the season. However, Danks has never been a high strikeout guy, and even though he’s on track to have a solid season, his stuff likely won’t be what it was before the shoulder surgery two years ago. What’s important is that Danks just simply knows how to pitch, and none of the above really matters if he keeps the ball low and changes speeds the way he’s done this season.
Bullpen Rounding Into Form
After a stretch where Ronald Belsario allowed runs in five out of six appearances and saw his ERA balloon to 12.91, the 31 year-old right hander has thrown 3.2 scoreless innings over the last two games. Also, while Matt Lindstrom allowed two baserunners in the ninth and made us all sweat, he shut the door and earned his second save on the season.
The performance of the bullpen has been encouraging over the past few games, as the unit has allowed just one run over the last three games (9.2 innings of work). While I’m still a bit uncomfortable with Lindstrom in the ninth, I’m becoming more and more confident in Belisario as the bridge to the ninth inning. He’s had a lot of big league success, and he’s starting to show why there was a reason Robin elected for him to be the main set-up guy. Hopefully this momentum the pen is building can transpire into a solid group that actually throws strikes.
Seventh Inning Propels the Sox
It took six innings to get to Anibal Sanchez, but the Sox finally scraped across three runs in the top of the seventh. Doubles from Conor Gillaspie, Jose Abreu, and Dayan Viciedo (which would have been long gone at U.S. Cellular Field) and a base-knock from Alexei Ramirez was all the offense the White Sox needed on this night.
Also, the White Sox finally had some luck on instant replay in this inning. Abreu’s double was reviewed and ruled fair after it just barley touched the chalk down the right field line, and Viciedo’s run in the ninth was challenged by Robin after being initially called out. We’ve seen the Sox have some terrible breaks on replay (a la De Aza’s “strikeout” yesterday in Texas) recently, so it was nice to see the umpires finally get some of these calls correct.
Building a Mindset
Over the past couple of seasons, the White Sox have had trouble defeating the Tigers in Comerica Park. With that in mind, winning today’s game is huge in terms of building confidence in being able to win against one of the top teams in the division on the road. It was one of those grind-it-out, close ballgames that you would expect the better team to prevail in, but tonight, the Sox showed they can hang with the more talented Tigers.
The White Sox probably won’t finish ahead of these Tigers, but if they can build the mindset of competing hard and not backing down against the top of this AL Central, that bodes well for the long run.