ST. PETERSBURG -- John Danks stood in a quiet corner of the White Sox clubhouse Saturday night grappling with a contradictory result. The left-hander thought his execution was better than it had been in his forgettable season debut eight days earlier, but his line in a 7-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field looked fairly similar.
For the second consecutive start, Danks allowed five earned runs, bringing his season total to 10 in 11 1/3 innings. For the second consecutive start, he walked away with a loss, leaving him as the lone struggling starter in a rotation that has been one of the Major Leagues' best early in the season.
"The first couple innings weren't as sharp as I would like to be in the strike zone," Danks said. "But I definitely threw the ball better this time than I did last time out. That's something to build on. But this league is about wins and losses, so it's a disappointment."
Danks dropped to 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA, after he was tagged for a run in the third inning, three in the fourth and one in the seventh. He said he made "a bad pitch" to Brad Miller, who cracked a two-run, 435-foot rocket to right-center field in the fourth that gave the Rays a 4-0 lead. Otherwise, Danks found some positives in a loss that snapped Chicago's five-game winning streak and ended Tampa Bay's three-game skid.
Still, the outcome compounded Danks' early-season problems. The memory of his rough debut against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field, one in which he allowed seven runs (five earned) and eight hits in five innings, remains fresh. White Sox manager Robin Ventura isn't alarmed about Danks' start to the year, but there's still recognition of the razor-thin difference between success and struggles on the mound.
"Early on, we need to give him some support, too," Ventura said. "That fourth inning is a tough one. He battled in there. And when you don't get the [pitch] you think you [should] and end up having to get some extra outs, it's tough."
Yet it's clear that Danks has struggled compared to other White Sox starters. His 10 earned runs through two appearances are more than the combined total of left-hander Jose Quintana, left-hander Carlos Rodon and right-hander Mat Latos (six). Left-hander Chris Sale has surrendered six in three starts. Before Saturday, Chicago's 2.05 ERA led the Major Leagues.
From Danks' perspective, he took steps forward in another loss, even if the numbers weren't kind to him.
"I threw the ball a lot better than my line will show," Danks said. "Threw some good pitches down. Didn't swing. Didn't get a call. It just didn't matter. That's the way it goes. It's part of it. It's baseball. But I certainly feel a lot better than I should with the line that I put up there today."
Andrew Astleford is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.