Danks' complete effort backed by defense
Lefty works around 10 hits; replay challenge takes run off scoreboard
HOUSTON -- In Sunday's 6-0 victory over the Astros, John Danks became the sixth pitcher in White Sox history to record a shutout while allowing at least 10 hits. The veteran left-hander knows he received plenty of help from his defense -- and a smart replay challenge from his manager.
The Astros strung together three straight one-out singles in the third inning, when Jose Altuve was initially ruled safe at first base on a grounder to second base. But White Sox manager Robin Ventura's challenge overturned the call, wiping a run off the scoreboard and extinguishing the biggest threat to Danks all game.
The double play made for a blip on the radar rather than a pothole, as Danks (3-4) cruised after that. His complete-game effort was the longest since he lasted eight innings against the Yankees on May 24, 2014, and his first full nine since Aug. 27, 2011, vs. Seattle.
The double play was emblematic of the symbiosis between Danks and his defense all day. He allowed the Astros to have plenty of hacks at it, but the White Sox had his back in the field.
"Definitely good defense, caught some breaks," Danks said. "The ball to center field they tried to stretch into a homer comes to mind. Really just trying to keep the ball in the ballpark and let these guys go to work and it worked out."
Danks was referencing Jonathan Villar's ill-fated attempt at an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning, when he was out by several feet at home on a perfectly executed relay throw by Alexei Ramirez. And Danks was successful at keeping the Astros' home run-heavy lineup inside Minute Maid Park's rather cozy confines.
The glove work on display from the White Sox also stood in sharp contrast to the Astros' own mishaps. Villar committed a third throwing error in two games and missed an opportunity for a double play. Astros starter Roberto Hernandez struggled, but the plays Chicago made crushed any mounting pressure and put Danks at ease.
It couldn't have come at a more opportune time for the Texas native. Not only was he pitching to secure a spot in the rotation moving forward, but he did it in front of 15-20 friends and family.
Ventura did not discount that motivation, especially once Danks was on fumes in the ninth. But there was the defense again, as Carlos Sanchez fired off a nifty 5-4-3 double play to end the game and extinguish a two-on, one-out threat.
"For John, pitching at home was good for him," Ventura said. "He threw great, scattered some hits around. I know that there were some guys on the bases, but he did a good job of bearing down and throwing strikes. We had a good defense today behind him, which helps.
"I know that's probably why he wanted [the complete game] when I went out there [for a mound visit in the ninth]. Pitching in front of his whole family that's here means something to him."
Danks was quick to point out that his bounce-back performance had as much to do with the plays made behind him as the pinpoint pitches he threw.
"It was just a good all-around team defense day. … [I] did my best to pound the zone low and let the defense work for me."