White Sox

John Danks' shutout propels White Sox to 6-0 victory

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John Danks' shutout propels White Sox to 6-0 victory

HOUSTON — It won’t always work this way for John Danks, but it looks pretty spectacular when it does.

With a Sunday gameplan that called for keeping the ball down, throwing strikes and utilizing his defense, Danks accomplished something no White Sox pitcher has done in 41-plus years when he pitched a complete-game shutout despite giving up at least 10 hits.

Backed by a strong defensive effort, Danks became the first White Sox pitcher since Stan Bahnsen on June 21, 1973, to complete the feat as the left-hander led the White Sox to a 6-0 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Danks, who made his longest start in 53 weeks, also became the club’s first pitcher since Chris Sale on May 12, 2013, to throw a complete-game shutout as the White Sox evened their record on the road trip at 4-4. The White Sox, who went 9-9 in 18 games played over 17 straight days, are off Monday.

“That’s how you draw it up,” said catcher Tyler Flowers, one of five White Sox hitters to drive in a run. “We got ahead of the majority of guys, executed some pitches, two out of the first three for strikes, put the pressure on them to put something in play. Towards the later innings (Danks) started leaving some pitches up ... kind of hurt us a little bit. But we did a good job getting out of jams.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Houston trip jars Don Cooper's World Series memories]

Danks didn’t shy away from contact against a team that leads the major leagues with 68 home runs.

He induced three double-play balls and got 13 outs on the ground, including the final two with the shutout on the line.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura briefly visited Danks with one out in the ninth to give him a breather after a one-out double by Evan Gattis and a Chris Carter walk. Two pitches later, Danks got Luis Valbuena to swing at a 0-1 cutter that resulted in a nicely turned 4-3 double play by Carlos Sanchez.

Sanchez also stabbed a Jose Altuve liner with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning to start a 4-6-3 double play that ended with a spectacular diving stop by first baseman Adam LaRoche. And Gordon Beckham, who made three great plays at third, started a 5-4-3 double play off Gattis’ bat to end the sixth.

“I feel like I didn’t give in at any point,” Danks said. “I was able to throw pitches for strikes any time. Kept the ball in the ballpark. That’s a big thing for me this season: walks and home runs. Limited both, and it worked out.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jose Abreu optimistic, eyes Tuesday return to White Sox]

Danks also had some good fortune, too.

With his team trailing 4-0 and no outs in the fifth, Houston’s Jonathan Villar tripled over Adam Eaton, who broke in, only to be thrown out at home trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park-home run. In the seventh, Villar overran third as Sanchez kept Jason Castro’s single from leaving the infield, which led to an inning-ending rundown.

“We played good defense today behind him,” Ventura said. “You get (Beckham) over there, and we have a little more range when he’s over there, and even Sanchy, some of the plays. We turned a double play with the bases loaded. Rochie over there with the nice pick, keeping his foot on the bag. That’s just limiting the other team to do that.”

All of it added up to a much-needed victory for Danks, who has recently struggled. After a pair of strong starts earlier this month, Danks had allowed 11 earned runs in his last 10 1/3 innings. The victory in front of 15 to 20 friends and family members is also the first for Danks in five starts against the Astros. It also marked Danks’ first shutout since Aug. 27, 2011.

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A Jose Abreu-less offense put him in good position to beat Houston.

Flowers’ two-out RBI single in the second put the White Sox ahead for good. Conor Gillaspie singled in two in the third inning, and Alexei Ramirez made it 4-0 with an RBI fielder’s choice.

Sanchez had a two-out RBI single in the sixth, and LaRoche homered in the seventh inning.

“I’ve been saying for the last five days that I need a good one,” Danks said. “It’s just the last couple I’ve struggled. Hopefully, this will jumpstart a nice little run. That’s the goal every time out. Go as deep as possible and give us a chance to win. These guys scored plenty of runs, enough to kind of let us relax.”

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's Elvis night on the South Side

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's Elvis night on the South Side

Scott Podsednik and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on Baseball Night in Chicago to discuss all things baseball.

They talk Yoan Moncada's comeback, Eloy Jiménez's injury, the Cubs' continuing bullpen struggles and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Eloy Jimenez not worried about his hip but admits frustration with rookie-year injuries

Eloy Jimenez not worried about his hip but admits frustration with rookie-year injuries

It doesn't sound like Eloy Jimenez's bout of hip soreness that kept him out of the lineup for the first two games of this weekend's series with the Texas Rangers is anything to be concerned about.

But for a player who loathes being limited to sitting and watching, it's just the latest injury-related bummer during a rookie season that's seen several of them.

General manager Rick Hahn started his press conference Thursday with the news that Jimenez was scratched from the starting lineup, delaying the on-field reunion of three of the team's young core players. Jimenez, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, all three of whom have sat through lengthy stays on the injured list this summer, have played just one inning together since late June.

With the season in late August, that's not great.

That's not likely to have cascading negative effects on the White Sox ability to contend in 2020 or the individual developments of each player. After all, Anderson and Moncada remain in the midst of breakout seasons. Anderson's been smoking hot in August, with a .400/.419/.567 slash line on the month. Moncada returned from the IL on Thursday and promptly banged out a pair of extra-base hits, including a two-run homer.

Jimenez hasn't had the same level of success as the two guys on the left side of the infield, though that hasn't been a massive surprise. While expectations were sky high — any more missed time from Jimenez will directly impact the chances of my overzealous preseason prediction of 36 home runs coming true — it's not at all shocking to see any player, even one with as much potential as Jimenez, go through rookie-year growing pains. Just look at what Moncada went through in his first full season in the big leagues in 2018.

Jimenez's "struggles," if you want to call them that, haven't been quite as pronounced as Moncada's thanks to the sheer fact that every time Jimenez launches a ball to dead center he provides a thrilling glimpse of the future, of the player he's supposed to be one day. There have been stretches of that player, but they've been slowed or flat out stopped by injuries.

The two big ones, the ones that landed Jimenez on the IL, aren't expected to be recurring problems. The first, as manager Rick Renteria will be quick to remind you, came when Jimenez made a play he shouldn't have attempted to make, trying to, as Renteria put it, "climb a wall" while going after a home-run ball. The second one was of the freak variety, him banging his elbow into Charlie Tilson in the outfield.

But whether they'll repeat themselves or not, those injuries brought his momentum at the plate to a halt. A slow first few games had Jimenez's batting average at .167 and his on-base percentage at .231 on April 5. In the 15 games that followed, he owned a .273 batting average and a .322 on-base percentage. That momentum was stopped by the first injured-list stint, which lasted nearly a month.

After returning, Jimenez had a great month of June, with a .284/.340/.602 slash line to go along with eight homers in 24 games. But by the middle of July, he was on the IL again after whacking his funny bone in that collision with Tilson. The numbers have not been good since he came back from that absence: a .235/.257/.439 line in 24 games.

"Little bit, yeah," Jimenez said Friday, asked if the injuries have been frustrating. "Because they started to happened when I was starting to feel good at the plate."

"He's obviously had a couple of things go on," Renteria said. "Anytime you have an interruption, it can throw the rhythm off a little bit, but he's still making adjustments just like anybody else and learning how to do it at the major league level. He'll be fine."

Just like there are no long-term concerns over Jimenez's hip, Renteria showed there are no concerns over Jimenez's long-term prospects as a dominant bat in the middle of the White Sox batting order of the future. It certainly wouldn't be unexpected, come 2020, to see Jimenez make a jump similar to the one Moncada made this season.

But in the middle of a season spent learning what big league pitchers are trying to do against him, the injuries haven't helped Jimenez.

He's surely hoping this brief absence stemming from the hip issue is the last of them in 2019.

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