(Sports Network) - A trip to the West Coast and a couple of matchups with a struggling Seattle squad seems to have gotten the Chicago White Sox back on track. The current American League Central leaders will try to remain unbeaten against the Mariners this season when the two teams conclude a three-game series tonight at Safeco Field.
Chicago entered this series off three consecutive defeats to rival Minnesota, which closed the Twins within 1 1/2 games of the White Sox in the division standings, but has been able to rebound at the expense of the hapless Mariners. After coming through with a 6-1 victory in the series opener, Chicago received excellent pitching for a second straight night in Tuesday's 4-0 triumph over Seattle.
John Danks (10-7) limited the Mariners' anemic offense to two hits and struck out eight over the first 7 2/3 innings to notch his 10th win of the season, with J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks recording the final five outs to complete the shutout.
"I felt good," Danks said afterward. "It was a good game. We scored some runs and as a staff were able to shut them out."
Alexei Ramirez paced the White Sox offensively by going 3-for-4 with a solo homer, while Alex Rios went 2-for-3 and added an RBI single to help Chicago post its 11th win in the past 14 games.
With Minnesota and Detroit both losing on Tuesday, the White Sox now hold a 3 1/2-game advantage on the Twins and Tigers in the AL Central race.
Doug Fister (3-6) was saddled with the loss for Seattle, now a woeful 3-14 for the month of July, after giving up three runs over the first six innings.
"When you're having trouble scoring runs, John Danks is not the guy you want to see," said Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu following the loss.
Chicago has now taken all five meetings with Seattle this season, having won three straight matchups between the teams at U.S. Cellular Field back in April. With a win tonight, the White Sox can produce their first three-game road sweep of the Mariners since June 24-26, 1994, when Seattle still played its games at the Kingdome.
Tonight's finale will feature an intriguing pitching matchup, with the Mariners set to send out staff ace Felix Hernandez against resurgent Chicago righty Gavin Floyd.
While Seattle as a team has clearly failed to meet expectations in 2010, Hernandez hasn't disappointed despite entering this evening's tilt with a rather ordinary 7-6 record. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award runner-up's 2.90 earned run average is fifth-best in the league, and he ranks second among Junior Circuit hurlers with 134 strikeouts while throwing an AL-best 145 2/3 innings.
Hernandez has worked seven innings or more in each of his last seven outings and notched five complete games during that span, and had posted four straight winning decisions prior to dropping a 3-2 verdict to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday. The All-Star right-hander allowed all three Anaheim runs and 10 hits in going the distance once again.
During his six-start unbeaten streak, Hernandez had registered a sensational 1.39 ERA and limited opposing hitters to a .177 average while fanning 52 batters in 5 1/3 innings.
Hernandez is just 2-2 with a 3.74 over seven lifetime starts against Chicago, but did not allow a run over a combined 15 innings in two encounters with the White Sox last season.
Floyd also had an impressive unbeaten stretch come to an end in his initial start out of the All-Star break, when the former first-round pick surrendered four runs -- only one of which was earned -- in a five-inning stint at Minnesota this past Friday. He had won three consecutive assignments to finish out the first half.
The 27-year-old has bounced back nicely from a poor first two months of the season. Floyd had a substandard 6.64 ERA as of June 2, but has lowered that number to 4.10 by yielding one run or fewer in six of his last eight starts.
Floyd didn't fare that well in a showdown with the Mariners in Chicago back on April 23, permitting five runs in 6 1/3 innings while receiving a no-decision, and is an unwanted 1-4 with a 7.41 ERA in nine career games (seven starts) against Seattle. He's also lost in all three of his previous starts at Safeco Field and pitched to a brutal 9.49 ERA during those contests.