LOS ANGELES (AP)—John Danks turned in another solid effort, even though he admittedly didn’t have his best stuff.
And when he handed a lead over to the Chicago White Sox bullpen, he knew he was in a great spot.
Danks pitched six sharp innings and combined with four relievers for a five-hitter, leading Chicago to a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.
“I give a lot of the credit to the starting rotation for keeping us in the game, giving us six or more innings almost every day and give me a chance to use those guys in the bullpen the right way,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “Everything starts with the rotation. If you have a good starting rotation, the bullpen is going to be stronger and better. We’ve got some arms out there who aren’t getting overused.”
Bobby Jenks followed relievers Matt Thornton, Octavio Dotel, and Scott Linebrink with a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 20 attempts. The White Sox bullpen, which has had the fewest innings pitched in the AL in each of the previous four seasons, again trails the pack this year with 204 2-3. But they lead the league in ERA and strikeouts per nine innings.
The two unsung arms in that bullpen have been Thornton and Linebrink, the only pitcher in the majors to make at least 70 appearances in each of the previous four seasons.
“It’s such a difference compared to last year,” said Thornton, who has stranded 17 of 20 inherited runners. “We pull for each other and pick each other up. Our great starting pitching has limited our number of appearances and innings, so we’re always ready. And being fresh is going to help us out later in the year.”
Danks (5-4) won for the first time since May 29 after getting a no-decision in each of his previous four starts. The 23-year-old left-hander allowed four hits and issued a season-high four walks as the White Sox won the rubber game of the interleague series.
Danks allowed fewer than three earned runs for the 13th time in 16 starts despite pitching with runners on base in every inning. He lowered his road ERA to a major league-best 1.48, compared to 5.23 last season.
“I didn’t quite have the command of my stuff I felt like I had in the last couple of games, but I had some great plays behind me and I made the pitches I needed to make in key situations,” Danks said. “My pitch count kind of bit me, but I know if I could get a lead through six or seven innings, we’d be in good shape. I’d put our bullpen up against any bullpen in the league.”
Clayton Kershaw (0-2) gave up two runs, six hits and four walks in four-plus innings, leaving the 20-year-old left-hander winless in seven big league starts since his promotion from Double-A Jacksonville on May 24.
Kershaw, the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, is winless in 16 professional starts dating to Aug. 20, 2007, with Jacksonville. He has allowed 16 earned runs, 33 hits and 22 walks in 33 innings with Los Angeles.
“I haven’t seen him get discouraged,” pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “I mean, any guy who takes the mound expects to win when they get the ball. Somewhere along the way, it gets old saying you’re pitching OK and keeping the team in the game. He’s going to have a chance for a lot of wins over his career. The main focus is keeping on track and keeping it positive.”
Brian Falkenborg, promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday when Scott Proctor went on the disabled list, made his first appearance with the Dodgers since May 28, 2004, after manager Joe Torre pulled Kershaw in the fifth with two on and none out. Falkenborg turned Joe Crede’s comebacker into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play after loading the bases with an intentional walk to Nick Swisher.
Juan Pierre was stranded at third base twice in the first three innings. In the third, second baseman Alexei Ramirez fielded James Loney’s slow grounder on the run and shoveled the ball backward to shortstop Orlando Cabrera with his glove—all in the same motion—to start an inning-ending double play. It was the 17th double play Loney has grounded into this season, the most in the majors.
“We had Danks on the ropes, but we just couldn’t get that big hit today,” Pierre said. “It’s a tough loss. Their guy pitched good, then they got in the pen and did a good job.”
Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, making his fourth start at third base, made a nice barehanded pickup of Swisher’s bunt in the second inning and threw him out after a leadoff walk to Jermaine Dye. One out later, Ramirez drove in the game’s first run with a broken-bat single. Carlos Quentin added an RBI single in the third.
Chicago committed six errors in the three-game series. … Crede was back at 3B for the White Sox after missing two games with stiffness in his lower back. … Martin has committed one error in 14 total chances at 3B, where he played his first season of pro ball before the Dodgers converted him into a catcher.