Danks outduels Greinke in opener

Danks outduels Greinke in opener

KANSAS CITY -- One starting pitcher from Friday's Royals-White Sox affair at Kauffman Stadium entered with an All-Star pedigree. One of the two hurlers came in with a sub-2.00 ERA and double-digit wins, not to mention a strong chance to be on the mound for the American League when the first pitch is thrown against the National League at the 2009 All-Star Game.

That particular standout pitcher, Zack Greinke, also ended up on the short end of Friday's 5-0 final, marking the seventh consecutive victory for the White Sox (42-38) and their ninth win in 10 games. Greinke (10-4) didn't have much support of the offensive or defensive variety, with two of his four runs allowed being unearned.

But judging by the shutout effort turned in by John Danks (7-6), the other guy in this matchup, there wasn't much the Royals (33-46) could have done.

Danks produced his fifth straight quality start, giving up five hits over 7 1/3 innings, while striking out five and not issuing a walk. The southpaw has now held opponents scoreless in 19 1/3 consecutive innings, last allowing a run in the second inning of his start against the Dodgers on June 23.

So, what has been the change from the prolonged May struggles for Danks, who has gone five starts in a row with at least seven innings pitched, posting a 1.53 ERA in those 35 2/3 innings? White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski summed up the improvement in one word.

"Strikes," said Pierzynski of Danks, who threw 72 of his 105 pitches for strikes. "Quality pitches early in the count, keeping his pitch count down. You saw it tonight -- strike one on a lot of hitters. And if he's falling behind, he has enough pitches with the changeup, curve and cutter to get guys out."

While the Royals had trouble getting to Danks, the White Sox bested the much-heralded Greinke for the first time in four starts this season. They started the scoring with Pierzynski's ninth home run coming with one out in the second and added two unearned runs to raise the lead to 3-0 in the third.

Scott Podsednik, whose three hits off Greinke raised his career average to .533 (16-for-30) against Kansas City's ace, doubled with one out to start the rally. Podsednik was still there one out later, with Jermaine Dye on first after a walk, when Jim Thome hit a slow roller toward right-center field that second baseman Alberto Callaspo appeared to have in his sights.

Thome's grounder rolled under Callaspo's glove for an error, allowing Podsednik to score. Paul Konerko doubled home a third run, with Dewayne Wise and Thome adding late run-scoring singles in the fourth and seventh, respectively.

Greinke exited after six innings, with his second-lowest pitch count of the year at 82. Meanwhile, the White Sox got to him for a second consecutive head-to-head matchup, with Greinke having allowed five earned runs on 17 hits over 13 innings pitched in these two starts.

Yes, for Greinke and his 2.00 ERA, those numbers represent mound struggles.

"He's still a good pitcher and knows what he's doing," said Pierzynski, who raised his career average to .432 against Greinke with two hits. "He's still throwing 96 or 97 [mph]. We just try to battle and get good pitches and don't miss them. He still has the great slider and great changeup. Just try to not give away at-bats. Be aggressive but stay in the strike zone and make good decisions, like [White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker] talks about all the time."

"Mainly, just a couple guys always beat me," said Greinke, who slipped to 5-9 in his career against the White Sox. "They did it again today, in Podsednik and Pierzynski. I've thrown everything, they've hit everything. It happens every time."

Friday's victory raised the White Sox road win streak to seven straight, their longest away from home since July 13 to Aug. 1, 2003. Chicago starting pitchers have walked four in total over this 5-0 start to its current seven-game road trip, with none issued in the past two nights by Danks or Mark Buehrle.

The Sox did not escape their 14th win in 18 games without a scare. Kansas City loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on two singles and Jayson Nix's fielding error on a potential double-play grounder hit back to Danks. But Scott Linebrink (second save) induced an inning-ending double play from Callaspo on a 3-1 pitch.

Billy Butler singled and Jose Guillen was hit by a pitch to start the ninth, but Miguel Olivo's grounder to second base was turned into a rally-killing double play. Linebrink's late work made a winner of Danks, who has outpitched Greinke and the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano in his past two starts.

"There's very little room for error against guys like that," said Danks of Greinke and Zambrano. "Us scoring [four] runs off of Greinke, that's a testament to how well we are swinging the bat. My job was to hang on to the lead and give us a chance to win late."

"It's one of those things right now," Royals left fielder David DeJesus said. "Danks really pitched good. We get guys on, and we're just not able to bring them in. Double plays have been killing us the last couple days."

Those same double plays have contributed to announcing the White Sox as a prime AL Central contender and maybe more.

"Right now, the ball is bouncing our way," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We need to keep it bouncing this way as long as we can."

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