That was a dud.
It didn’t take long to determine it, either.
John Danks and the White Sox needed only five batters on Friday afternoon to quell the fan enthusiasm that normally accompanies a home opener. A little more than an inning later, the sellout crowd at U.S. Cellular Field had been entirely removed as a potential factor.
Danks allowed five early runs and Danny Salazar and the Cleveland Indians limited the White Sox, 7-1 losers, to three hits in front of 38,019. Following four days of standout starting efforts and sound play in Oakland, Danks lasted only five innings as he allowed seven runs (five earned) and eight hits. Todd Frazier homered and singled in the losing effort.
“It’s very frustrating,” Frazier said. “We’ve been doing our jobs the last four games, and we were coming in hot. You’re going to have games like this. It happens. We couldn’t really find a groove there with everybody, and that’s the way it goes.”
For the briefest instant, Danks’ season started off well as he struck out Cleveland leadoff man Rajai Davis on five pitches. Danks entered his start with high hopes after he did a good job commanding his fastball this spring.
But the positive vibes ended quickly on Friday with consecutive first-inning singles by Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor and a Mike Napoli walk to load the bases. Danks looked like he might navigate his way out of trouble as Carlos Santana hit a 12-foot chopper in front of the plate. Catcher Alex Avila gloved it and looked to flip home to Danks only to realize he didn’t have a play. Avila then threw wildly to first base, which allowed two runs to score.
“I saw the runner in the corner of my eye was going to beat him, and I just turned and fired and tried to get at least one,” Avila said. “Usually you just hold on there. That’s the first one I’ve thrown away in quite a while.”
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Avila said he didn’t help Danks any with the play. But the pitcher wasn’t about to let the veteran catcher wear the mistake that also left Napoli on third. Yan Gomes’ sac fly quickly made it 3-0, and the Indians were off to the races.
“When I peeled off, it looked like he was thinking about flipping it to me, and it got just kind of messed up,” Danks said. “Alex shouldn’t beat himself up over that. We never should have been in that position. And I certainly should have held them there.”
An inning later, Danks surrendered an RBI triple to Davis, and a Kipnis sac fly gave Salazar a five-run cushion. Any optimism left quickly disappeared, especially for Danks.
Danks looked as if he settled in after the first two innings. The left-hander set down 10 in a row into the fifth inning.
But Cleveland broke through again with four straight two-out hits, including an RBI single by Santana and an RBI double by Gomes to make it 7-1.
“I’ve been excited about this start for a couple weeks now,” Danks said. “I definitely pictured it going a lot different in my head.”
The offense, which has been prone to slumps in the early going, showed little life against Salazar.
The White Sox drew a pair of one-out walks in the second inning, but Avisail Garcia was picked of first base and Brett Lawrie struck out.
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“It was too big of a lead,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We're down by five. We need a lot more than just him scoring. So really, just shorten up and take care of it that way.”
The offense didn’t notch its first hit until Frazier ripped an 0-2 fastball from Salazar with one out in the fourth inning beyond the home bullpen in left field. Frazier’s second homer of the season got the White Sox within four runs, but they got no closer.
An effectively wild Salazar managed to hold the White Sox at bay for 5 1/3 innings. Though the right-hander walked three batters, the White Sox never mounted another serious threat.
Salazar struck out seven batters before he turned it over to the bullpen for the final 11 outs.
“This was one of those games,” Frazier said. “A little hectic day for everybody. No excuses. We’ve just got to come back tomorrow.”