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Danks steps up in tiebreaker

Danks steps up in tiebreaker

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CHICAGO -- John Danks might have been a question mark in the White Sox rotation before the season began, but his dominant performance throughout the first half silenced the critics.

But after going 4-5 with a 4.73 ERA in the second half before his start in Tuesday's tiebreaker against the Twins, those same concerns from before the season began to resurface.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tabbed Danks to start game No. 163 on short rest simply because he was the only pitcher available. It wasn't that Guillen hadn't been impressed with what Danks had done all season, but he simply had not been pitching well when it mattered most.

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It mattered more than ever at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday, and Danks pitched better than ever.

"John Danks did an unbelievable job, and he's the reason we are where we are right now," Guillen said of Danks, who pitched eight shutout innings in the 1-0 victory. "I never thought this kid was going to be doing that, and he went out and did what he is supposed to do. I think it's one of the best games he's ever thrown."

Danks rarely shows any sort of emotion on the mound, in good starts or in bad ones. But he made no effort to hide them during what was undoubtedly the biggest start of his young career.

"I'm not one to show much emotion on the mound, and there were a few times where I came off fist pumping and screaming," the left-hander said. "Javy [Vazquez] and I really felt like we let the team down [last weekend], especially if we weren't able to get to this game. We felt like it was our fault. And so we were so excited to get to this game."

Danks gave up only two hits on the night and kept the heart of the order -- Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer -- relatively quiet. That trio is a career 22-for-40 against Danks, but went just 1-for-9 on Tuesday.

"I know my numbers weren't great against them," Danks said. "They've owned me. I needed to keep them from beating me and keep guys from getting on base when they were coming up."

Even on three days' rest, Danks felt strong and rested, just as Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd had in the last two games. The three starters combined to allow just two earned runs in the final three games of the season.

Against Cleveland on Friday, Danks was touched up for seven earned runs in four innings, but his early exit in that game may have been a blessing in disguise.

"I felt really strong [today]," Danks said. "I had to tell myself to back off a little bit. The Cleveland game last week, I felt too strong, if that's possible. I felt like I could throw it 100 mph -- and I was. I was trying to do too much. Tonight I told myself not to do too much, to stay down in the zone."

It was a page right out of Buehrle's book. The veteran White Sox starter was a mentor of sorts for Danks in Spring Training, and was overjoyed to watch him pick apart Minnesota.

"I taught him everything he knows," Buehrle said with a smile. "Throw strikes, work quick. I taught him his cutter. To come into a game like this, to go out and shut those guys down ... He's gotten knocked around by them, and to go out and do what he did today, that's one of the best pitching performances I've seen from him this year.

"To me he's been our best pitcher this year. With a little more help and run support, he could have easily won 20 games. It was a typical game for John. We got one run and he won the game."

David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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