Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Updated: 1:38 AM
By Brett Ballantini
SEATTLE With the competition in the division mired in quicksand and looking all-too-susceptible to dying a slow death, the Chicago White Sox are poised to use a two-week stretch of games vs. the Seattle Mariners and Oakland As to steal the 2010 AL Central flag for good.
Courtesy of a two-hit pitching by John Dankswho allowed just a dinky infield hit to Casey Kotchman in the second inning and a crisp, two-out single to center by Ichiro Suzuki in the eighthChicago cruised to a 4-0 victory ove the Ms and a 3.5-game lead on both the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins.
On an odd baseball night, where 12 different teams scored seven runs or more, Danks was at his stingiest as well as his most effectively wild, with four walks and a hit Ichiro over his 7.2 innings.
He did what we expect him to do, said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Hes a guy who goes out there to give you the best effort. Even when he doesnt have his good stuff hes going to go out there and compete.
Were just trying to live up to the hype right now, said the modest Danks. We got off to a pretty slow start as a staff, and weve turned it around.
The White Sox tapped out 10 hits and four runs. Mark Kotsay broke the ice in the fourth, tapping in Alex Rios on a groundout after he walked and was doubled to third by Paul Konerko. In the fifth, Chicago struck twice courtesy of four hits and RBI from Juan Pierre and Rios. And in the ninth, Alexei Ramirez yanked a 2-1 pitch out to left for his ninth homer of the season.
In the bottom of the ninth, Ramirez made a jaw-dropping play on a grounder from Jose Lopez, the momentum from his throw taking him practically to Safeco Fields sushi station for an early postgame Ichiroll.
Alexei has a great chance to be a Gold Glove winner, Guillen said.. Every day, hes getting better and better, a lot of work. Its paying off for him. He makes the ballclub a lot better.
But for Guillen, the true defensive star of the night was 43-year-old third baseman Omar Vizquel. The veteran made four terrific plays in the field, flashing leather just as fast as he did in winning 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop earlier in his career.
Everything is contagious, Guillen said. Omar Vizquel put on a show today at 3rd base. If one of those balls went through it could have been a different ballgame. He made all the plays. When you see that happen, the rest of the infielders are ready.
Its something Danks saw and felt as well.
Its a little easier to hold a team to two hits when the left side of the infield is doing that for us, the starter said. Theyre turning plays that probably shouldnt be made into routine plays. Its fun to watch.
Like Guillen, Danks had particular salutations for Vizquel.
I dont think anyone else could ever do what hes doing, he said. Hes been impressive. Hes also been swinging the bat. Hes been a big key to where were at right now.
The typically low-key Vizquel deflected too much praise, offering, Some people say that defense wins ballgames, and weve been playing some pretty good defense. Every time you make some good plays to shut down the other team you feel pretty good about yourself.
J.J. Putz came on in relief of Danks and induced a fly out from Chone Figgins, which was his White Sox team record 25th straight scoreless appearance. Bobby Jenks shook off the loneliness of his last outing with a scoreless ninth.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.