White Sox

After 10-day break, John Danks returns to shut down Orioles

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After 10-day break, John Danks returns to shut down Orioles

John Danks had his last turn skipped in the White Sox rotation and knew he had to pitch better to help dig his team out of the first-half hole in which they’re currently mired.

With seven shutout innings against Baltimore to pace a 1-0 win Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, Danks took a step toward his goal of turning around his season — and his team’s fortunes.

“I’ve pitched my way into being the guy who gets skipped. I understand that,” Danks, who went 10 days between starts, said. “My goal is to be consistent, go out there and work my way into being one of the top guys again. My job is when I get the ball to go deep in the game and give us a chance to win. And hopefully this will start a nice little run for me.”

Danks out-dueled Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez in what felt like a turn-back-the-clock night for a pair of pitchers who have fallen from their 2008-2010 primes.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Extra day of rest sets up Chris Sale vs. Mark Buehrle on Monday]

After throwing a 10-hit shutout May 31 in Houston, Danks was rocked in four June starts, posting a 6.85 ERA and allowing 33 hits (five home runs) over 22 1/3 innings. His season ERA spiked to 5.38, the eighth-worst mark for a qualified starting pitcher entering Friday.

Danks didn’t necessarily make any major changes for his start Friday night, though his sparingly used curveball wound up being his best pitch. After throwing his curveball for nine percent of his pitches this season, Danks threw 16 in 93 pitches — a 17-percent rate — and Orioles hitters didn’t put a single one of them in play. He generated five swings and misses on it, and his success with the curveball allowed his fastball to be more effective.

“That was a pretty good pitch for him, especially now that he’s showing not only the ability to throw it for strikes, but to throw it below the zone,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “It’s definitely a good weapon for him, good change of speed. I think it kind of levels out the playing field as far as his fastball setting up the curveball tandem combo. All of a sudden that 89. 90, 91 has a feeling like you’re throwing 95.”

The result was Danks limiting a Baltimore side that came to U.S. Cellular Field with baseball’s sixth-best team OPS (.741) to five singles and two walks with five strikeouts. The only run support he needed was Jose Abreu's third-inning solo home run.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox in no rush to see if Carson Fulmer can be on fast track]

It wasn’t vintage Danks — he didn’t rely on his curveball much during his best years — but it was another sign that the 30-year-old left-hander is continuing to try different things to regain the effectiveness he lost with shoulder surgery in 2012.

Since the start of the 2013 season, Danks has the lowest WAR (0.7) of any starting pitcher with at least 400 innings pitched, though his issues haven’t been due to a lack of effort.

“It’s been hard to get that velocity back that he had before, you have to be able to adapt and do things, and I think tonight looked a lot better in the form he's trying to create and to be able to locate,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He's not reaching back trying to get anymore. There's enough there to be able to get guys off the fastball or changeup.”

Or the curveball, as was the case Friday. With that pitch working and changing the eye level of Orioles hitters, his fastball became more effective, which in turn helped set up his changeup.

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The White Sox have now won three consecutive games — two over the first-place Cardinals and one over the Orioles, who entered Friday tied for first place in the American League East. Last place still has a strong grip on the White Sox with four games until the midway point of the season. But wins breed hope, and this is a clubhouse that still hopes it can navigate the long road back to contention.

“We all have to pull our weight,” Danks said. “That certainly includes me, and maybe even a little more than some of the other guys. I haven’t played as well as I would have liked. I also said that we’ve dug ourselves a deep hole but there’s a lot of the season left.

“If we can start playing consistent baseball, each doing our jobs, we might find ourselves back in this thing.”

Tim Anderson's eventful day at the yard ends with shot at Joe West: 'Everybody knows he's terrible'

Tim Anderson's eventful day at the yard ends with shot at Joe West: 'Everybody knows he's terrible'

Talk about an eventful night at the ol' ballpark for Tim Anderson.

It looked like it was going to be a day worth celebrating for Anderson, whose developmental progress reached a milestone during the third inning of Saturday's Crosstown matchup with the Cubs. He hit his 20th home run of the season, becoming the first White Sox shortstop ever to have a season with at least 20 homers and at least 20 stolen bases.

A heck of a feat, one that should stand out when White Sox fans and observers spend the offseason discussing whether or not Anderson truly is this franchise's shortstop of the future.

But the ump show came and overshadowed all that.

The Cubs were in the process of extending their lead in the ninth inning, putting things out of reach, when the White Sox attempted a double play on an Anthony Rizzo groundball. Anderson got the force out at second base and attempted the turn in the presence of a sliding Javy Baez. His throw went nowhere near first base, going down as an error that allowed another run to score.

After the play was over, Rick Renteria challenged, spurring a review to see if Baez violated the rules by reaching his arm out in an attempt to impede Anderson from making the play. The review determined Baez did not do that. Anderson disagreed, and a conversation with famed umpire Joe West followed.

"I asked him a question, and he kind of got pissed at me," Anderson said of his interaction with West. "I asked him if he saw him reach for my leg in the replay. He asked me if I was going to argue that, and I said, ‘No, I was just asking a question.’ And after that I didn’t say anything else. He started barking at me. Kept staring me down. I gave him, 'Why you keep looking at me?' Did that twice and threw me out."

Anderson was ejected, and he was visibly livid on the field, screaming at West in the immediate aftermath of the ejection. Renteria came out after Anderson started making his way toward the dugout, still yelling, and was ejected, as well.

Now, White Sox fans are no stranger to West, who famously — or infamously, if you're a White Sox supporter — called a couple of balks on Mark Buehrle and ejected both Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen in a 2010 game against the Cleveland Indians, sending announcer Hawk Harrelson into an on-air rant against West: "He's becoming a joke to the umpiring profession."

But the White Sox are far from the only team to have their run-ins with West. Anderson was obviously familiar with West's reputation, taking a shot after the game.

"I don’t have much to say about him. Everybody knows he’s terrible," Anderson said. "But I didn’t say much and he threw me out. It’s OK."

Additionally, Anderson was adamant that Baez did indeed move his hand in violation of the sliding rules at second base — and added the review officials in New York to his criticism list.

"Yeah, definitely. You could see it in the replay," Anderson said. "That’s just one of the many that they missed in New York, I guess."

And so an eventful night for Anderson.

His criticisms of the officials will undoubtedly overshadow his joining the 20-homer club and standing alone in the White Sox 20-20 club. But those are just further examples on Anderson's growth as a player this season.

Yes, the error he made on that play was his 19th of the season, putting him among the league leaders in that category after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors last season. But he now has career highs in home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, doubles and walks. And his fielding has been noticeably improved over the last month or so, a result of the work he's put in with Joe McEwing.

This weekend, Anderson generated headlines with an argument with an umpire. This winter, he'll be generating discussion by what he's done on the field. And the latter has been impressive.

"I’ve been able to take my game to another level," he said. "I just have to continue to grow and just keep learning and keep working hard."

White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk Harrelson interview before his final White Sox broadcast

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk Harrelson interview before his final White Sox broadcast

Hawk Harrelson sat down with Chuck Garfien to talk about his emotions prior to calling his final White Sox game.

Why has he been such an unspoken announcer in his career?  Does he have anything prepared for his final inning?

How does he want to be remembered?  That and more on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: