Rare bad start by Danks hurts Sox

Rare bad start by Danks hurts Sox

BALTIMORE -- The number of subpar starts made by John Danks during the 2008 season could seriously be counted on one hand, in what has amounted to a coming-of-age performance from the 23-year-old left-hander.

That list of rough outings for Danks now needs to take on an extra finger, following the 11-3 shellacking administered by Baltimore on Wednesday night. The setback not only prevented the White Sox (76-57) from completing a three-game road sweep at Camden Yards, but coupled with Minnesota's 6-5 win at Seattle, dropped their lead in the American League Central to one game over the Twins (75-58).

And Wednesday's wrong-way blowout began with the early struggles from Danks (10-7). He exited after allowing four runs on seven hits over four innings, his shortest outing since July 20. Danks needed 93 pitches to complete his work, striking out just one and walking three.

To present an idea as to how rare this sort of performance has been for Danks, he has worked at least six innings in 20 of his 27 trips to the mound. In 20 of these same starts, Danks has yielded three runs or fewer -- hitting both targets in all four of his previous August efforts.

Simply put, it was not Danks' night against the Orioles, and he really didn't have a firm explanation for the troubles.

"[I] wish I had an answer. I was pretty bad," said Danks, who often is critical of his own work even on successful nights at the ballpark, but showed great poise in the aftermath of defeat. "There was no other way of putting it.

"My job is to get us into the seventh and eighth inning with the lead or tied, and I didn't even get us into the fifth inning. I didn't even give us a chance to win. It was very disappointing. I feel good, but didn't have command of everything."

Danks pointed out how catcher A.J. Pierzynski would call a fastball in, and he would then proceed to throw the pitch outside. His breaking stuff wasn't there, and his changeup was consistently up.

Aside from this litany of issues, it was a great evening for Danks.

Interestingly enough, the bottom of the Baltimore order inflicted much of the damage against the White Sox. The trio of Luke Scott, Lou Montanez and Juan Castro combined for six hits and five runs scored, with the journeyman Castro delivering a game-changing bloop single in the fifth.

Lance Broadway had relieved Danks, and Baltimore runners were perched on second and third with two outs in a 4-2 ballgame. Castro dropped a single just out of the reach of center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. and second baseman Alexei Ramirez, scoring two runs and giving the Orioles (63-70) a four-run cushion.

Ozzie Guillen actually was talking about the talented young position players possessed by Baltimore before Tuesday's game, pointing to Scott, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts as great future building blocks. After his team's three-game winning streak came to an end, Guillen sarcastically blamed Alex Cintron, an old friend and one-time White Sox infielder, for the defeat.

Cintron was supposed to give Roberts a night off at second base, but came down with food poisoning. Roberts re-entered the lineup and drove in three runs, including a two-run single following Castro's two-out double off Danks in the second.

"I think Cintron was the player of the game," said Guillen with a laugh. "He was supposed to be in the lineup, then all of a sudden, Roberts plays, and he killed us. I blame Cintron for this one. Thank you. You almost got me fired last year, now you're going to get me fired this year."

"He played great, came up with some big hits for us," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley of Roberts.

Home runs from Jermaine Dye, his 32nd, and Paul Konerko, his 13th, were the lone highlights of the night for the White Sox off Baltimore starter Radhames Liz (5-3) and three relievers. Broadway was touched up for seven runs on nine hits over his four innings, a total featuring home runs from Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar.

In saving the bullpen for this forgettable night, Broadway also earned praise from his manager.

"We were so bad. That was the best thing that happened tonight for us -- for real," said Guillen of Broadway. "That kid throws good. He did a tremendous job to save the bullpen for us. I like the way he was throwing the ball."

Before starting a weekend series in Boston, the White Sox have Thursday's off-day to briefly regroup. Guillen joked that he needed that day off more than the players, but he will be spending it with his wife, Ibis, celebrating her birthday.

For Danks, the three games against the Red Sox will seem like an eternity after Wednesday's dismal showing. Although he has reached a career high in innings pitched at 160 2/3, Danks is ready for more and doesn't feel any after-effects from the increased workload.

"Not at all," Danks said. "Like I said, I feel strong. I don't know what to say. I feel good. Stuff is still there. It's a matter of me doing it. And I didn't do it. Hopefully, I can put this behind me soon."

"[It was a] tough night for everyone," Guillen added. "John did not throw the ball the way we have seen him throw the ball. Those kind of days, you wish it would be a different way. I always say pitchers dictate how we play the game. Unfortunately, we did not bring anything to the ballgame."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.