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updated: 5/29/2011 8:39 PM

Same old same old for White Sox

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  • Aaron Hill, center, rounds third base after hitting a grand slam off  White Sox starting pitcher John Danks, left, as third baseman Brent Morel, right,looks on during the first inning Sunday in Toronto.

      Aaron Hill, center, rounds third base after hitting a grand slam off White Sox starting pitcher John Danks, left, as third baseman Brent Morel, right,looks on during the first inning Sunday in Toronto.
    Associated Press

 

While waiting in vain for John Danks to sneak a high fastball past a Toronto hitter in Sunday's 13-4 loss, there was lots of time to do research.

Did you realize this is the same point during last season when the White Sox went on their monstrous winning spree?

The Sox were 23-32 through 55 games and trailing by 9˝ games in the Central Division. Then they won 27 of their next 33 games to zoom into the lead.

After Sunday's loss, which featured Danks giving up a career-worst 9 earned runs in 4 innings, the White Sox are 24-31 and trailing by 9˝ games.

Some nice symmetry, huh? Guess it's time to expect excellence as they head to red-hot Boston for a three-game series.

Pardon a weary-sounding Ozzie Guillen if he's unprepared to start enjoying the manager's sole raison d'ętre.

"The only reward we freakin' have in this stupid career is winning," Guillen told reporters before Sunday's game. "When you're not winning, you're miserable. That's my life. That's my job. That's my passion for the game."

A little bit of Ozzie must have died with each failure this weekend when the Sox had runners in scoring position.

During the four-game set, Toronto was 12-for-33 (.364) with runners in scoring position.

The White Sox went 10-for-50, including 2-for-12 in Sunday's game. They're hitting .248 for the year with runners in scoring position, which mirrors the American League average.

So while there's room to get hot at the plate in such situations -- the sort of thing that could fuel a winning streak -- there's no guarantee it's going to happen or even deserves to happen.

Let's examine Sunday's sixth inning as an example.

Carlos Quentin led off with a single and motored to third on Paul Konerko's single to right-center.

With the score 12-2, there shouldn't have been inordinate pressure on the Sox hitters -- and Toronto starter and winner Ricky Romero could have been happy to pound the strike zone and trade runs for outs.

Yet Alex Rios popped up to second. Adam Dunn struck out on a curveball, which went nicely with his whiff on a 95-mph fastball two innings before. Then Ramon Castro grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat.

That inning felt much like the failed first-and-third situation in the 11th inning of Saturday's game, which drove Ozzie into a profanity-laden tirade about his team's lack of production.

But hitting is such a touchy-feely thing that there's little to do but try to ride out the rough patches.

Danks' issues are a whole 'nother problem.

He needed 51 pitches to get through the first inning (the most by any pitcher this year, according to Elias) as the lefty didn't have command of his fastball and didn't bother with many breaking pitches.

At some point during Toronto's 6-run first -- right around the time Aaron Hill pulled a fastball for a grand slam and Edwin Encarnacion followed with another homer to deep left -- Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone wondered why Danks hadn't bothered with any breaking stuff.

Danks now becomes the first Sox starter to open a season 0-8 since lefty Eddie Smith in 1942. Smith, who had been an all-star the year before, began 0-10 before finishing 7-20.

While Danks appeared snakebit earlier in the year, now his approach appears poisoned. In his last 4 starts, he has surrendered 21 earned runs and 6 homers with just 10 strikeouts in 23⅓ innings.

He's striking out just 5.9 batters per 9 innings, which is a full strikeout behind his career rate.

One nugget to suggest all is not lost: Danks was piddling along with a 4-5 record last summer when the Sox hit their June boon.

The hard-chewing lefty won 7 of his next 8 starts to fuel that run. It's obvious the Sox need that guy again if they're going to make a move.

lwillhite@dailyherald.com

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