Even if you're relatively supportive of John Danks -- understanding that most teams have worse as a fifth starter -- you wouldn't have picked him to throw the first shutout by a White Sox pitcher this season ... on the road ... and against a divisional leader.
Today, the only "10" was in the hit column, and that's even rarer. You have to go back to Aug. 3, 2004, when Carlos Silva shut out the Anaheim Angels despite allowing 10 hits. Against the odds, Danks answered Dallas Keuchel's Saturday shutout with one of his own, and he earned points for creativity along the way.
As you might expect from such a scattering, Danks benefited from a combination of good luck, good defense, and bad baserunning by the Astros.
Danks had to survive a moment of truth in the third inning. The Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and Danks had to avoid his usual pitfall of giving runs right back. Sure enough, he allowed three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases for last year's batting champ, Jose Altuve.
Altuve hit a firm grounder to the right side, but Carlos Sanchez snared it and gave Alexei Ramirez a good feed. Ramirez left his feet to avoid George Springer (a legit move this time), and the resulting throw was well to the home plate side of first. Fortunately, Adam LaRoche was ready for it, making a diving catch to save a potential error at the very least. It was intially ruled a fielder's choice, but Robin Ventura challenged, and the replay showed that LaRoche maintained contact with the bag, and Danks had escaped the worst trouble he'd see.
Danks received great defense all day long. Gordon Beckham continued his strong play, robbing Jonathan Villar of a hit in the third inning for that important first out, then starting a slick double play on a short hop in the sixth. Sanchez turned a potential RBI single into the final out of the seventh, as he kept a Jason Castro grounder from trickling into the outfield, then caught Villar overrunning third base.
And because it was Danks' day, even the lone mistake by his defense worked out for him. Villar -- who was at the center of a lot of weirdness today -- led off the fifth by smoking a liner to center. Adam Eaton misread it by breaking in, and it sailed over his head and rolled up to the top of Tal's Hill. Astros third base coach Gary Pettis wagered that the Sox wouldn't be able to execute a 435-foot, one-throw relay.
Pettis lost. Eaton fired to Ramirez, who fired home. With Villar still far from home plate, Tyler Flowers was able to wait back to grab a longer hop, then lunge forward to apply the tag. An inside-the-park homer bid was instead a triple and an out, and Danks had victory in his grasp the rest of the way. He completed the shutout by getting Luis Valbuena to hit into a 4-3 double play on his 118th pitch of the day.
Besides throwing some leather behind Danks, the Sox also stepped up their support offensively with a strong effort from top to bottom. Flowers gave Danks a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out single off Roberto Hernandez. They followed up in the third by loading the bases with nobody out and scoring all three runners. Conor GIllaspie snuck a two-run single through the right side, and because LaRoche went from first to third on the throw home, he could score on Ramirez's fielder's choice to the right side.
They tacked on a single run in the sixth, as Ramirez reached on an inexplicable Villar throwing error (see?), stole second with two outs, then scored on a Sanchez RBI single. And after a day full of singles and smart baserunning, LaRoche decided to score a run the easy way by flipping a Jake Buchanan fastball into the Crawford Boxes for a solo shot.
And so the Sox closed out this tough stretch of eight road games in seven days with an easy finish, and Monday's off day is richly deserved.