John Danks would like to think Thursday night’s effort is a step toward a strong finish.
Though his six-inning outing wasn’t good enough for a victory, similar efforts down the stretch certainly would land Danks in the win column. The left-hander limited the Cleveland Indians to a pair of runs but Carlos Carrasco was even better as the White Sox dropped a 3-2 contest at U.S. Cellular Field.
Despite RBI singles from Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn and six solid innings from Danks, the White Sox lost for the eighth time in nine games and dropped back to a season-worst 13 games below .500.
“I thought today he was as strong as he’s been most of the year,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Danks’ outing was his best since July 13 when he allowed a run over seven innings at Cleveland in his last start before the All-Star break.
Since then, Danks has struggled with a 7.98 ERA over 38 1/3 innings in seven starts.
It isn’t for a lack of feeling good, either.
Danks, who had shoulder surgery in August 2012, said he has had no issues with his body or his arm this season. He hopes that translates into better results like the ones he had from mid-May through the All-Star break when he had a 2.69 ERA over 10 starts.
“Everything feels good,” Danks said. “Stuff’s there. Body feels fine. It’s just a matter of executing pitches.
“I feel like since the second half I haven’t been as good as I’d like to be or like I feel like I can be.”
The left-hander looked like he was in for a long night when Michael Bourn opened the game with an Alejandro De Aza-aided triple. Bourn scored on a nifty piece of base running on Jose Ramirez’s RBI groundout but Danks quickly settled in as he retired 15 of the next 18 batters he faced.
Danks relied heavily on a changeup he threw 15 of 22 times for strikes as he kept the Indians off-balance.
Danks even looked as if he’d escape trouble in the sixth until Jason Kipnis’s two-out RBI single gave Cleveland a 2-1 lead.
He threw strikes on 66 of 101 pitches.
“He pitched better, definitely, jumping ahead,” Ventura said. “The first inning a ball gets by in the corner, but other than that he was pretty sharp and jumping ahead.”
The only thing that kept Danks from a victory was a sterling effort by Carrasco and a four-strikeout save by Cody Allen.
After he allowed the first two batters of the game to reach base, Carrasco got Abreu and Dunn to fly out and he struck out Avisail Garcia. He gave up a run in the third on a two-out RBI single by Abreu but struck out Dunn to end the inning.
Carrasco retired 12 in a row into the seventh inning and limited the White Sox to a run and hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
Dunn singled in a run with two in the eighth inning off Allen. But Allen fought back to strikeout Garcia with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
Allen then struck out the side in the ninth to convert the save.
Danks matched Carrasco pitch for pitch into the sixth inning until Kipnis’ hit. After five weeks of struggles, Danks would like to think Thursday’s effort is a sign he has turned a corner so he can head into the offseason with peace of mind. With $28.5 million owed to Danks over the next two seasons, the White Sox would similarly like to think their veteran starter could rediscover the consistency that led him to his payday.
“Pile up as many innings as you can,” Danks said. “You never like going into the offseason on a sour note. … I’ve got a month to right the ship and feel good about what we did this year. I don’t look at numbers and follow numbers too much but you want to have some good starts and a good taste in your mouth going into the offseason.”