Half-expecting tonight's game to resemble the harrowing games of yesterweek, I strapped it down with low expectations, but high hopes for a third Danks victory and some semblance of an offensive demonstration against Zach Duke.
The game began speedily enough with three Sox going down on five pitches; to which Danks answered with his own 1-2-3 side, including his first K on a slider to Stephen Drew. Paulie led off the 2nd with a single, followed by an Alexei double to the left-center gap. Rios brought in Paulie with a groundout to shortstop, Castro walked, and the rally stopped there with a Beckham flyout and a Danks groundout. Amusingly, Danks worked Duke a bit by taking the first three pitches for balls, and the Arizona crowd let their disapproval be known. Duke responded by throwing two strikes by Danks before getting him to reach for the groundout. Two men left, but hey, a run! A lead!
Bottom of the 2nd, Danks rather quickly gave up the leadoff single to Chris Young on an 0-2 count, but then caught him in a pick-off/run-down attempt and wiped his runner away just in time to have Ryan Roberts crush a fastball to the center field wall. A seemingly makable play for Rios, I'm not real clear on what went wrong. A misread, misplay, I don't know. He did not catch it. Roberts wound up on second and right around this point of the game, I realized I am really digging on Danks' beard. (I actually wrote that in my recap notes.)
Xavier Nady lined a ball up the center directly into the glove of Becks, who was playing close to the base keeping on top of Roberts' lead at 2nd. Becks doubled-up Roberts and Danks escaped his first jam with his lead sitting unsettlingly at 1-0.
The top of the third brought more Sox offense with a Morel double on a deep hit ball to the right-center gap. Q flew! Out, that is. Up came Captain Paulie, who lined a hit up the middle right between Duke's legs to score Morel from third, 2-0 Sox.
Danks' quick 3rd inning featured two more Ks, and a swift 1-2-3 for the Sox offense took us to the bottom of the 4th, when the game got a little frightening for a couple reasons.
Bloomquist singled to start the inning, then Drew hit a line drive straight at Danks, who spun instinctively to his right, and in doing so took the hard-hit ball fresh off the bat, to the back of his head. Hard line shot. Bounced off Danks' skull above his left ear, and ricocheted out of play for a ground-rule double. Herm evaluated him and Danks insisted his marbles were gathered; and so he marched right back out to the mound to continue the 4th with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Talk about big and hairy you-know-whats!
Bloomquist scored on a passed ball that also moved Drew to third. With no outs yet registered for our rattled southpaw, a sac fly by Upton brought home Drew to tie the game at two. Danks struck out Chris Young and finished the inning with a flyout from Roberts. Minor damage considering the real damage that could have been that inning.
Danks chugged along like nothing ever happened, and a solo Paulie blast in the top of the 6th gave Danks his leading run. Back-to-back singles from Ramirez and Rios marked the end of Duke and I couldn't help but feel like we should have worked him for more than three runs. Micah Owings took the bump and finished the Sox with two left behind.
Every inning of this game felt like a small victory for Danks, especially after the blow to his brain. He hit Bloomquist with a pitch to start the 6th, but then retired the side from there. And the 7th only got tougher yet.
Danks started the 7th with a strikeout of Roberts; his 6th nom o' the night. Then Nady's ground ball got snagged by a diving Morel, who had a shot at Nady at first, but blew it when he hesitated on the throw. Man on board, one out to Mora, who hit a ball deep (way back!) to the left field wall. Lillibridge, in all his outfield prowess of late, hunted down the hit and soared backwards into the wall to grab Mora's ball, destined for the stands. However, the impact of the Flying Lillibridge Monster hitting the wall was enough to dislodge the ice cream cone catch from his glove, and the ball dropped to the warning track. Lillibridge saved the sure two runs, but the inning continued with only one out and men at 2nd and 3rd.
Henry Blanco up. And so was his hit! Straight up in the air to Beckham after working the count full. Danks' hairy face lit up as he threw his arm in the air to track it off the bat; a smile that warmed the collective cockles of the viewers at home. Two down to Owings, who quickly struck out on a two-seamer. Danks escaped the 7th unscathed, thanks in part to a Lilli help from his left fielder not named Juan Pierre.
The top of the 8th rolled around and a leadoff QBP put a duq on the pond. After Paulie struck out (apparently he can't hit in every at-bat), Alexei singled to left to keep the line moving. And then came the insurance, with a 3-run towering Rios bomb to left field to put the Sox ahead 6-2.
A gutsy Danks finished the night after 110 pitches over 7 innings, 74 of which were strikes. No walks, 7 hits, 7 strikeouts... I think it's safe to say that he was lucky tonight. Especially since the bullpen combo of Crain and Thornton preserved his deserved win by throwing two innings of near-flawless work.
Also noteworthy, in lineupular order, Konerko - Ramirez - Rios combined for 8 hits and accounted for 4 runs and all 6 RBI. Between that and Danks' outing, I do declare this game featured a healthy dose of "H-E-A-R-T". After a rough week of Sox baseball, that was just what the doctor ordered.