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Happy birthday: Danks earns win

Happy birthday: Danks earns win

CHICAGO -- When the White Sox arrive in Baltimore on Tuesday night, John Danks will be relying on Annapolis, Md., native Gavin Floyd to take him out in familiar environs and help celebrate his birthday.

Danks didn't wait, though, to share the joy of turning 23 with the 18,254 who watched the White Sox claim a 4-1 victory over Oakland during an afternoon contest at U.S. Cellular Field.

The southpaw, who was lit up by Minnesota to the tune of seven runs on seven hits over 2 1/3 innings during his start last Wednesday, held Oakland (9-6) scoreless for 7 2/3 innings in helping the White Sox (8-5) earn a two-game split. Danks fanned four and walked two, yielding five hits, while giving his stellar defense a chance to make play after play behind him.

Tuesday's performance ended a streak of 11 starts without a victory for Danks (1-1), marking the first time he ended up on the right side of the score since July 16, 2007.

"It's been a while, but I feel good," said Danks with a laugh, concerning his last victory. "I feel like a different pitcher this year. Nothing's really new anymore, and I expect good things the rest of the way out."

"Their guy was just hitting his spots," added Oakland manager Bob Geren of Danks, who threw 62 of his 97 pitches for strikes. "He had a nice little tail on one side of the plate, and a cutter on the other."

That cutter helped Danks retire 10 Oakland hitters via ground balls, with Joe Crede and Orlando Cabrera continuing to flash Gold Glove-caliber efforts on the left side of the diamond. As White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pointed out, the No. 1 web gem actually came from Alexei Ramirez with the game scoreless in the second and Emil Brown at the plate.

Brown lined a Danks pitch toward the right-center-field gap, which Ramirez, who was making a rare start in center, cut off quickly. Without really looking at Cabrera, Ramirez fired a strike on the fly as he was fading away from the base to nail Brown at second for the inning's first out.

"I put my head down and took it for granted that it was going to be a double," said Crede of Ramirez's play. "I give credit to him. He threw a strike to second base."

"That shut it down right away," Guillen added. "That got the team a little pumped."

Oakland starter Dana Eveland (1-1) lost control for a bit to start the fourth, hitting Paul Konerko with a pitch and walking Crede on five pitches. Carlos Quentin then made him pay, blasting a three-run home run through the wind to left on a 1-0 count.

Eveland and Quentin played together last year for both Triple-A Tucson and the Diamondbacks, so there's common knowledge shared by the pair. In Tuesday's situation, Eveland didn't make a bad pitch as much as giving Quentin something for which he was looking.

"I'm not going to say it was a horrible pitch," said Quentin, who raised his RBI total to 13 with his second home run of the season. "It wasn't up, just over the plate a little bit. It was down, but sometimes I like the ball down."

"I was trying to throw something down, hoping he'd roll over it and hit into a double play," added Eveland, who exited after Crede's run-scoring single with two outs in the fifth. "He didn't."

Not a single White Sox hit came against two Oakland relievers, but the early support was enough to make a winner of Danks. Scott Linebrink recorded the final out in the eighth, and when Linebrink got in trouble by putting two runners on in the ninth, closer Bobby Jenks needed just two pitches to record three outs and pick up his fifth save in five tries.

For Danks, it was his second career home victory over the A's. He also fell one-third of an inning short of matching his career high. It's the sort of outing both Danks and Guillen expect from the young hurler, with Guillen even joking afterwards how Danks does what is expected of him and gets invited into the U.S. Cellular Conference and Learning Center for a special interview session.

"Obviously it's not going to be, but we wish every outing would be like that," Guillen said. "I was talking with [pitching coach Don] Cooper, and it would be nice if we get more [consistency] from him. When he's good, he's real good. When he's bad, he's real bad. I think that's a growing-up thing, that's experience."

"Last year, if I felt like I did today, I probably wouldn't have made it out of the third or fourth inning," Danks added. "I would have tried to overthrow. Today, I didn't feel like I had the best stuff I've had, but I'm taking those steps forward and growing. You have to go out there and battle every game."

As for the birthday aspect of Tuesday's effort, Danks recalls making only one other start on this special day. That also was a victory.

His first present, aside from the victory, actually came when Guillen left the dugout in the eighth to remove Danks. The crowd responded with a standing ovation.

"He's fine. He's young," said White Sox catcher Toby Hall, who caught Danks on Tuesday. "He's got a good demeanor and got good stuff, and outings like that you just build on, especially after that last outing he had. To come out there and do that was awesome."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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