White Sox-Astros Preview
John Danks said he wanted to be a "stopper" after his last start.
The Chicago White Sox hope he's finally going in the right direction.
The left-hander looks to build off his first victory in a year as he takes on the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night.
Danks (1-2, 4.13 ERA) flew through his last start, retiring the last 21 hitters he faced to finish with eight innings of one-run ball Saturday. He surrendered three hits in a 4-1 win over Oakland, picking up his first victory since May 19, 2012.
"I want to be a stopper," Danks said. "I want to be a guy that goes out there and can be depended on to give us as good a chance to win as anybody."
For a long time, the White Sox (28-36) have been unable to depend on Danks as a stopper. The left-hander went so long between wins due largely to a shoulder injury that kept him out for the better part of a year. He's made four starts since returning.
"His velocity is climbing, it looks like, as he goes, but he's definitely pitching with less velocity than he's had when it was years ago," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "But that can be a good thing if he pitches now and learns to do some things that he might have to do. Then if he gets back to where he's going to get to - which I'm sure he will - now you have both weapons."
His only start against Houston (24-44) was a loss in 2007. The only player on the young Astros who has extensive experience against Danks is lefty-hitting Carlos Pena, who is 4 for 17 against him but with two homers and a double. Danks, holding lefties to a .207 average this year, is facing a Houston team averaging 1.9 runs in its last eight games.
He'll also look to take advantage of a venue that has seen a lot of pitchers' duels lately, including Houston's 2-1 victory Friday night. Just 46 runs have been scored in the last seven games played at Minute Maid Park, with the winning team scoring four runs or fewer in five of them.
Lucas Harrell (4-7, 4.52) is very familiar with a lack of offense, receiving 12 runs of support over 11 of his starts. He's won all three outings when getting more than three runs. Houston scored one over his last two outings as Harrell went 0-1 despite giving up two runs - one earned - and seven hits in 14 innings.
He held Kansas City off the scoreboard for seven innings Sunday in a 2-0 loss. Harrell, tied for third in the majors with 40 walks, did not issue one after walking three in the first two innings and threw 33 of his final 48 pitches for strikes.
"I was more aggressive," Harrell said. "I started pounding the zone and using my sinker more to get ahead. And then I threw some really good curveballs."
Harrell, though, has 27 walks in 41 innings at home while posting a 6.15 ERA. The right-hander won his only start against the White Sox, yielding five runs in 7 1-3 innings of an 11-9 road win June 10, 2012.
Adam Dunn homered off Harrell in that matchup and has hit four in his last five games, though he was 0 for 2 with an RBI on Friday.
The White Sox have committed eight errors in their last six games, including three in a loss to Toronto on Tuesday and two by shortstop Alexei Ramirez on Friday which allowed Houston to score its only two runs.