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Danks' first victory was a feel-good moment

6/7/2011

CHICAGO -- Despite all the losses, the bad luck, the embarrassment and that 0-8 record that haunted him from the scoreboard, John Danks refused to hang his head.

Danks faced a red-hot Seattle Mariners squad Monday and if you didn’t know any better, it seemed like he was 8-0.

The Chicago White Sox left-hander came off the field after the first inning after striking out two batters and put his hands together as if in prayer and looked to the heavens, getting a rise out of his teammates in the dugout. He joked with Adam Dunn after coming off the field in the second inning.

Danks has continued to be himself despite the tough times and on Monday he was finally rewarded with a victory. The 3-1 win meant the White Sox didn’t give him a whole lot of run support, but he was up to the task. The only run he allowed was unearned.

“I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been tough,” Danks said. “I was doing a lot of beating myself up and... not doubting myself, but at the same time kind of wondering when’s it going to turn around. I just kept on plugging along. I’ve had a great backbone, if you will, with the coaches and my teammates and people away from the field who have been great.”

In danger of becoming the first pitcher since the Reds’ Jim Merritt in 1971 to win 15 games one season and start 0-9 the next, Danks gave up his one unearned run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings with a walk and six strikeouts.

Manager Ozzie Guillen removed Danks in the eighth inning after an RBI single from Brendan Ryan. The move guaranteed that Danks wouldn’t lose. When Jesse Crain got out of the eighth and Sergio Santos closed out a perfect ninth for his 11th save, the long wait for a victory was over at just over two months.

“I think everybody in the clubhouse was very excited,” Guillen said. “This guy is one of the best teammates in the group and everybody was rooting for him. That’s the type of guy, every time he goes out there you wish him well because the way he goes about his business and the way people love him in the clubhouse, this guy is a bulldog.”

If Danks was ever angry over a lack of run support, it never showed. He entered with a 3.07 run support average, sixth lowest in the American League. This time, he found a way to make it work.

“It looked like the old John,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “He had good slider, he had a good changeup. He’s been trying and trying and trying, and working and working and working to get to where he needs to be and he’ll tell you, it was a struggle. Nobody could be happier for John than me.”

As he walked off the field in the eighth inning after being removed, Danks acknowledged a standing ovation with a tip of his cap.

“It's huge, it really is,” Danks said. “It's been tough for me. But to know that the fans are still right there with me is huge. Hopefully this is what I needed to get on a bit of a roll.”