The White Sox celebrated John Danks’ return to the majors with a delayed walkoff on Friday night.
An inning after Angel Hernandez robbed them of a victory with a blown call, Jeff Keppinger lifted the White Sox to a 4-3 win in 11 innings over the Miami Marlins in front of 20,393 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Keppinger’s one-out, bases-loaded single off of Miami reliever Ryan Webb helped the White Sox to their seventh win in 10 games. Although he didn’t receive a decision, both Danks and the White Sox were pleased that the pitcher’s first appearance in the majors since May 19, 2012 resulted in a team victory. Danks allowed three earned runs and four hits in six innings.
“That’s the only stat that matters at the end of the day: Win a ballgame,” Danks said. “It was a good first one. I did as much as I had hoped to do.”
[More: Danks breaks down his first start of 2013]
After a slow start to the season, Keppinger has begun to offer the White Sox the bat they thought they were getting when they signed him to a three-year deal in December.
The veteran’s bases-loaded walk in Anaheim last Thursday forced in the winning run and on Tuesday his two-run homer put the White Sox ahead of the Red Sox for good.
He delivered yet another victory on Friday, this one in walk-off fashion, when he ripped Webb’s 1-0 offering into left field to score pinch-runner Tyler Greene.
Keppinger finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
“That’s the best feeling in baseball,” Keppinger said. “You want to be that guy that can come through at the end of the game and put your team on top.”
[More: Keppinger talks walk-off, heating up at the plate]
Alex Rios, who earlier extended his career-best hitting streak to 18 games, thought he was that guy an inning earlier.
The White Sox loaded the bases with one out in the 10th against Marlins reliever Chad Qualls. Rios hit a grounder but just beat the relay throw to first to avoid a double play for what appeared to be a game-winning fielder’s choice. Hernandez, who earlier this month blew a home run-call in Oakland, had other ideas and called Rios out even though replays show he beat the throw by half a step.
The White Sox bounced back in the bottom of the 11 th against Webb as Paul Konerko -- who went 3-for-5 with an RBI -- singled to start the inning. Greene took over for Konerko and advanced to third on Dayan Viciedo’s single to shallow right.
The Marlins then intentionally walked Conor Gillaspie to load the bases for Keppinger, who is now 8-for-20 with eight RBIs and has a six-game hitting streak.
“You have to put it behind you,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of the missed call. “Fortunately you get somebody on and Paulie gets on and Tank got that hit. Stuff happens. You just have to roll with it.”
[More: Sox PGL on Hernandez's blown call]
Although his rehab has been mostly smooth, Danks noted the difference between himself now and in March -- when the club decided he needed to stay in extended spring training to build arm strength and regain velocity -- is “night and day.”
Just 9 1/2 months removed from shoulder surgery in August, the left-hander threw strikes early and often. He littered the strike zone as he mixed and matched a good changeup with a fastball that averaged 89.8 mph and touched 91.
After he walked 13 batters and hit two more in four minor-league rehab starts, Danks also showed good command against the Marlins. He did hit one batter, but didn’t issue a walk in six-plus innings as he threw strikes on 56 of 76 pitches.
On Wednesday, Ventura joked that he expected a perfect game from Danks. He also said a no-hitter would qualify as acceptable. Danks followed those directions to the letter early as he retired the first seven batters he faced before he hit Nick Green with a pitch.
His outing wasn’t perfect, however. After Placido Polanco’s leadoff single in the fourth, Danks gave up a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich and fell behind 2-0.
But all in all, Danks is satisfied with his team’s victory.
“I felt really good,” Danks said. “I felt like I was able to make the ball move and do what I wanted to do for the most part. There were a few pitches I would like to have back. ... But going into the game, if you told me I would go 6 and 3 (earned runs), that would have been good.”