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Danks goes the distance to beat Tribe

Danks goes the distance to beat Tribe

CLEVELAND -- For the first time as a professional baseball player, John Danks finished what he started.

"We always had such strict pitch counts with the Rangers, and then I've been in the big leagues here and haven't been the most efficient pitcher," said Danks, after allowing just three hits in going the distance during a 6-1 victory over the Indians on Monday night at Progressive Field. The win was the second in a row for the White Sox (76-81), who began the final six games of the 2009 regular season on a high note.

"Danks always gives you a good game," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of the talented left-hander. "Maybe a bad one here or there, but he's been very consistent."

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Monday's outstanding effort did more than mark Danks' first career complete game. By improving to 13-10 with one start remaining Saturday in Detroit, Danks set a single-season career high in victories.

In the process, Danks raised his 2009 innings total to 195 1/3, leaving him 4 2/3 innings short of another important target.

"I've set a goal -- 200 innings every year," Danks said. "I'm getting close, so I'm going out there and trying to pitch an efficient inning, trying to keep us in the game.

"To go out there and get deep in the game, it feels good. I'm going to go out there and throw one more time against Detroit and hopefully it means something. Hopefully, the race isn't determined yet and it means something."

The Indians (64-92) didn't manage a hit off of Danks until two outs in the fourth inning, when Shin-Soo Choo laced a double to left. Choo's 19th home run, coming on a 0-2 pitch leading off the seventh, prevented Danks from tossing his first shutout.

While Danks was efficiently dealing on the mound, the White Sox basically used a pair of three-run innings to provide support on offense. The first three runs, and five of their 11 hits, came in the second off of Indians starter Aaron Laffey (7-8). Alex Rios, Josh Fields and Tyler Flowers knocked out consecutive singles to load the bases with one out, and Brent Lillibridge brought in the first run with a two-out infield single on a slow-roller to third.

Dewayne Wise was hit by a Laffey pitch to force in a second run and Gordon Beckham's infield single up the middle accounted for run No. 3. The lead stayed precariously at two, especially with the White Sox bullpen being shortened by injuries to closer Bobby Jenks (right calf, not with the team), D.J. Carrasco (left hamstring) and Octavio Dotel (neck), until the ninth.

Beckham doubled home two runs off of reliever Jensen Lewis, giving the rookie sensation 27 doubles and 63 RBIs, and a third run scored on a Cleveland error to put the advantage at 6-1. That extra cushion gave Danks enough breathing room to come back for the ninth.

"Good thing we score a couple more to give him a little more in case he makes a little mistake," Guillen said. "We struggle in our 'pen, and [Danks] wanted to go one more."

"You know, we were kind of joking about it in the dugout, how this game should have been more like 8-0 when it was 3-1," Flowers said. "Sure enough, we picked up a couple more key hits, they gave us a few runners through walks and we took advantage."

Seldom-used reserves such as Wise, Josh Fields and Lillibridge made the most of their rare start on Monday by each reaching base three times. Fields broke a 3-for-30 slump over his past 18 games with two hits, while Lillibridge's two hits ended a 1-for-18 drought.

But Danks was the story in the series opener. He mixed pitches and location well, walking one and striking out seven, including three of the final five hitters he faced to punctuate a 115-pitch night.

Barring a Mark Buehrle start and victory on Sunday in the season's final game, Danks will end up as the White Sox victory leader.

"Wins sometimes can be a little overrated, but if you're out there enough, out there deeper into games, wins will come," Danks said. "Hopefully, we can have a better year next year, but it was nice to have a career high in wins."

"He had a good changeup and a good fastball," said Indians manager Eric Wedge of Danks. "He could work the changeup off the fastball. He controlled the ballgame today."

Through 90 career starts, Danks has a 31-32 career record and a lifetime ERA checking in at a shade over 4.00. But in the past two years, Danks has posted a 25-19 record with a combined 3.50 ERA.

Hurling that first complete game seems to be a sign of much bigger things to come for the 24-year-old ace-in-training.

"I feel like we're making improvements each year, making better pitches and getting more efficient," Danks said. "Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."

"You don't see that many kids now throw complete games," Guillen said. "Most of the time heavy counts, they get into trouble one inning and can't finish. It's nice to see something like that and show people we're out, but we're going to go out and play."  

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

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