CHICAGO - John Danks pitched like he did at the end of last season and that was good enough to beat the struggling Chicago Cubs.
The left-hander didn’t allow a run through seven strong innings Wednesday, Alexei Ramirez homered in the first and the White Sox parlayed some NL-style small ball into some late runs to beat the Cubs 4-1 at Wrigley Field.
“You know the Cubs are going to swing the bats and that helps you calm down to throw strikes and let them put the ball in play. Fortunately, they were hitting them to our guys,” Danks said.
“It is fun to come here in this atmosphere.”
Danks won a one-game playoff against the Twins with eight shutout innings to send the White Sox into the playoffs last season and also captured an ALDS victory against Tampa Bay.
He’d had a couple of rough outings this season, but came up with one of his best performances of the year. He gave up one run and five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in seven-plus innings.
Danks (5-5) worked out of some early jams in a meeting of crosstown rivals who’ve struggled offensively this season.
“I just knew I had to make tough pitches. I wanted to make them earn it. Fortunately, we were able to get out of it,” Danks added.
He left after Aaron Miles doubled to lead off the eighth.
White Sox’s center fielder Brian Anderson then leaped in front of the ivy-covered wall to catch pinch-hitter Jake Fox’s long drive. Miles took third on the play and scored on Alfonso Soriano’s RBI grounder off reliever Scott Linebrink as the Cubs averted a shutout.
Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save in 17 chances.
The Cubs have lost 5 of 6. And over the last 26 games, they have scored one run or less 10 times, going 9-17 in that span.
“It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to start making some tough decisions and get different people in the lineup,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
Piniella acknowledged that slumps by proven hitters makes it even more perplexing.
“Sooner or later you got to start hitting. If not, you got to give somebody else a chance. That’s all,” he said.
Leading 1-0, the White Sox added a run on Chris Getz’s RBI triple in the second off a wild Ryan Dempster (4-4) and got a third run in the seventh on a squeeze bunt single from Scott Podsednik. In the eighth, a walk, single by Paul Konerko with a runner breaking and a sacrifice fly by A.J. Pierzynski made it 4-0 when pinch-runner DeWayne Wise beat Soriano’s throw to the plate.
“I could have done a better job,” Dempster said. “Getting behind and getting down 2-0 and Danks was throwing the ball really well and that kind of put us in a tough spot. I didn’t attack the strike zone very well.”
Ramirez lifted his sixth homer of the season into the basket in left field on a 1-2 pitch from Dempster in the first.
Dempster, who walked six, was removed after issuing back-to-back free passes to Getz and Gordon Beckham in the seventh. After Danks swung away after showing bunt, reliever Angel Guzman made a nice stab of his grounder and threw to second to get Beckman, leaving runners at first and third.
With Getz breaking for the plate, Podsednik delivered a perfect squeeze bunt — a play called by manager Ozzie Guillen — and beat it out for a single to make it 3-0.
“He likes that style of ball. He likes get-’em-over-get-’em-in, squeezing. He likes those types of plays more than home runs,” Podsednik said of Guillen. “He likes raw baseball, so you’ve got to be ready.”
The Cubs had several chances against Danks but couldn’t convert.
Derrek Lee singled leading off the second to extend his hitting streak to 14 games and Geovany Soto followed with a hard hopper off third baseman Beckham for an error, putting runners at first and second. Beckham then started an around-the-horn double play before Mike Fontenot grounded out.
The Cubs had runners at the corners with no outs in the fourth, but when Anderson made a nice catch of Lee’s sinking liner, Cubs’ baserunner Ryan Theriot had already broken off third and couldn’t get back in time to tag up. Danks then fanned Soto and got Reed Johnson on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Notes: The White Sox, backed by a large and vocal following at Wrigley Field, now lead the spirited and closely contested interleague series that began in 1997, 34-33.
HBT: Carlos Ruiz was lifted from Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after straining his right hamstring while running the bases in the bottom of the second inning.
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