Danks start a relief for White Sox, on verge of sweeping Detroit Tigers

John Danks provided the White Sox with a victory and a well-earned save.

That is he saved most of his fatigued bullpen Wednesday night with 62/3 innings of four-hit ball as the Sox earned a 5-1 victory over Detroit before a crowd of 34,124 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Danks' pitching and Jim Thome's three-run homer in the first inning enabled the Sox to remain one game ahead of Minnesota, who won an afternoon game, in the AL Central.

"In our park, and John facing all those right-handed hitters on that team, he was amazing," said bench coach Joey Cora, who was 2-0 while replacing suspended manager Ozzie Guillen.

Danks, 23, pitched deep enough to preserve a bullpen that hurled 10 innings in Tuesday night's 14-inning victory. Although every reliever but Matt Thornton was available, the added rest came in handy because the Sox will try to complete a sweep Thursday night of Detroit before opening a four-game series against the defending World Series champion Red Sox.

"I also noticed Minnesota had won," said Danks, who beat Detroit without his sharp curve. "I wasn't thinking about it on the mound. … It was a big game for us."

Before Danks' performance, the Sox's pitching staff had allowed 31 runs in its previous three games, including 19 earned runs off the starting pitchers.

This was the latest in a series of steps Danks has taken this season after he stumbled as a rookie in 2007. Danks (9-4) lowered his ERA to 3.21 as he allowed only three baserunners over the first six innings, and outfielders made only four of his 20 putouts.

Danks hasn't lost since May 24 against the Angels. Since then he is 6-0 with a 3.36 ERA in 13 starts.

D.J. Carrasco bailed out Danks when he induced Marcus Thames to ground out to end the seventh. Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks then each pitched scoreless innings to secure the victory.

"This season has been a blast," Danks said. "I know there's a lot more to go and there's a lot more to accomplish."

Especially for Danks, who was 6-13 with a 5.50 ERA in 2007.

"I plain stunk last year," Danks said. "I wasn't good, and this year there's a lot more riding with each start."

Third baseman Juan Uribe provided superb defense that complemented the rest of the offense.

"He's playing a heck of a third base," Cora said. "He was waiting for this opportunity again. He never pouted. He kept working."

Thome's three-run homer helped beat Verlander, who fell to 2-8 lifetime against the Sox despite eight strikeouts in a 130-pitch performance.

Thome's home run was his 22nd of the season and the 529th of his career, moving him five behind Jimmie Foxx for 15th all-time.

Verlander was pulled in the eighth after issuing a walk to Paul Konerko to load the bases. Alexei Ramirez then came through with a two-out, two-run single off Aquilino Lopez for the insurance runs.

"If we're going to [win the division], it's going to be a team effort," Cora said. "Hopefully, we get it done."

Ken Griffey Jr. was given a rest after playing all 14 innings Tuesday night.

mgonzales@tribune.com

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