John Danks came into the month of June with a record of 0-8, and flamethrowing phenom Michael Pineda stood in his way.
As everybody expected, Danks outpitched Pineda and picked up his first win of the season. And the crazy thing is Pineda pitched well.
Danks was just better. His fastball had a bit more giddyup than in previous starts, and his changeup had a bit more tail. He only gave up a couple of well-struck balls on the evening. One was a liner directly at Brent Morel, and another one was a Brendan Ryan slicing drive to the right-center gap that looked like a much, much tougher play
The other Brent was well up to the task. Even though the ball was on a course towards right field, Brent Lillibridge had the speed to go and get it -- and he got it. He launched himself into the air and made a full-extension grab as Carlos Quentin veered out of the way to end the inning. With speedy Greg Halman on first and running on contact, Lillibridge saved Danks a run.
But the defense wasn't alone in helping out Danks. After running themselves out of an inning in the first, the Sox were able to overcome it and put a couple of runs on Pineda's tab.
Pineda was as advertised, throwing 95 to 98 mph with plenty of movement. However, his slider was suspect from the start, and the Sox did all their damage on that pitch.
Paul Konerko gave the Sox a 1-0 lead on a hanging slider in the fourth inning. Gordon Beckham also capitalized on a hanger, and his at-bat was more impresssive.
A.J. Pierzynski led off the seventh with a double, and (a not-bunting) Lillibridge drew a walk. Adam Dunn battled Pineda, too, but on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. As the boos subsided, Beckham came to the plate to try to pick up his struggling teammate.
He went up there hacking. He fouled off the first pitch and swung through the second. Then he had to engage survival mode, and not just figuratively -- Pineda's sixth pitch of the at-bat nearly drilled Beckham in the earhole at 97 mph, but Beckham fell straight down and the pitch buzzed the top of his helmet.
Beckham got his revenge. Miguel Olivo wanted a slider in the dirt, but Pineda left another spinner up, and Beckham spun Pineda with a liner back through the box. Pineda slapped the dirt as Pierzynski came home for a key run.
Danks' quest for a victory was briefly in doubt. Halman reached on an infield single, moved to second when Dunn couldn't handle Danks' pickoff throw, moved to third on an Ichiro Suzuki groundout, and came home on a single by Ryan. Danks left with a 2-1 lead and one out.
Jesse Crain and Sergio Santos stopped the bleeding. They retired all four batters they faced (Ryan ran into an out on a Crain pitch in the dirt), and Danks got off the schneid. Even better -- the one run doesn't go toward his ERA.
*The middle of the order had a nice day. Konerko homered, Quentin doubled twice, and he came around to score on one of them when Pierzynski singled in the eighth.
*On Quentin's first double, Halman had the ball in his mitt, but it became dislodged when he ran into the wall. Juan Pierre, who was on first, couldn't pick it up as he rounded second. He retreated, then tried to make it to third, then doubled back, and confused Quentin the process. After a brief rundown, Pierre was tagged out and Quentin stood on second.
*Brent Lillibridge drew three walks, and was pitched around in the eighth to load the bases for Dunn. Dunn struck out on a changeup in the dirt.