ARLINGTON -- John Danks said Friday that his grandmother would be in attendance on Saturday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to see him pitch for the first time. She picked the right game to watch in person. In addition to witnessing a victory for her grandson, she was treated to a thrilling ballgame. Danks was solid in his second Major League start in his home state, leading Chicago to a 9-7 victory. But having nearly 40 friends and family in attendance for the game was all that separated it from any other start for Danks.
"I guess it's different just because I had so many people in the stands," said Danks, a former Rangers farmhand who was traded to the White Sox before last season. But Danks came close to being handed his ninth no-decision of the season when the bullpen nearly blew a 9-4 lead in the ninth. It took an acrobatic play by second baseman Alexei Ramirez, who reached across his body to field a Josh Hamilton grounder up the middle and threw back across his body to get Hamilton at first, to put an end to Texas' three-run ninth-inning rally. "Real bad bullpen performances for both teams," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Ugly game." Chicago's Bobby Jenks-less bullpen struggled, allowing three runs. Every inning that Danks ate up, going 7 2/3, made a difference. "Awesome. Great performance," said Guillen of Danks' effort. "To see the kid perform like that is good. You appreciate it and admire it. Hopefully, the kid can stay healthy for his career because he's going to have a good one." Danks said he wasn't worried about his victory slipping away in the ninth inning, but early on it looked like he might not get in position for a victory. Through three innings Saturday, Danks was trailing, 2-1, after having surrendered a solo home run to Milton Bradley and an RBI single to Hamilton -- a pair of All-Stars. But Danks, who's put up All-Star-caliber numbers to this point in the season, pitched like one the next four innings. Danks retired all 12 batters he faced from the fourth inning to the seventh, recording four of his eight strikeouts in that stretch, as his offense put him on top, 8-2. "He was very good with command of all three of his pitches," Ian Kinsler said. "He's developed a pretty good cutter. He's really tough on right-handers. He's always been tough on left-handers, now he's tough on righties." In the eighth, the Rangers put an end to Danks' homecoming. Back-to-back doubles by German Duran and Kinsler and another RBI single by Hamilton cut the deficit to four and prompted Danks' exit. "I felt like I made a lot of good pitches," Danks said. "My slider was working. I almost threw it too much to left-handers. It felt like they were sitting on it." They didn't sit on it enough. The victory improved Danks to 7-4 on the season and gave him his third victory in his past four starts. It also stretched his streak of starts without a loss to nine. Most importantly for Chicago, it maintained the White Sox's 1 1/2-game lead over the Twins in the AL Central, guaranteeing that the club will go into the second half of the season in first place in the division. The offense put in its fair share of the workload, as well. Paul Konerko, who entered Saturday 2-for-15 since coming off the disabled list, went 4-for-4 with his ninth home run of the season. He and Jim Thome homered back-to-back in the eighth inning, as Thome went deep for the second straight game. Despite scoring nine runs, Chicago could have had more, having stranded 14 men on base. "We didn't clutch hit and they did," Guillen said. "But I'd rather see 14 left on base than have zero get on base." A.J. Pierzynski left the ballgame in the top of the fourth with a lower left leg contusion that he suffered when he was hit by a pitch in the top of the third. Guillen said Pierzynski, who's listed as day-to-day, would be out of Sunday's lineup, but didn't think the injury would be an issue after the All-Star break. "For A.J. to come out of the game is saying something," Guillen said. "Toby [Hall] will start [Sunday] and hopefully we won't need A.J."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.