Three hours before he threw his first pitch Wednesday, John Danks wasn't relishing the hot, humid weather conditions in which he'd soon work. And he's from Austin, Tex, where the mercury nudges 100 regularly from May to September amid the same kind of sultry air Chicago has been
What gives? Danks said he's pitched in Chicago and its much more frigid climes -- save for the occasional summer hot spell -- and had gotten used to Windy City weather, having lost his old 100-degree mid-Texas mound touch.
Well, eight innings, one run allowed, seven strikeouts and 116 sweltering pitches later, Danks had mastered the Twins, who had been as torrid as the weather. The lefty reversed both team and personal momentum. The Sox had lost four in a row while the Twins were on an 18-7 run that had swiped first place from the Sox after they had been on top for an entire month. And Danks himself had hardly fooled the Twins -- he had a 5.28 career ERA against them, the exception being a 1-0 victory in the famed "blackout" play-in game dueling Nick Blackburn in 2008. Even in a July 15 victory at Target Field, he had given up six runs in six innings.
The Sox needed a lock-down outing from Danks in the worst way. Their offense had gone into a slumber, while Freddy Garcia's batting-practice pitches served up to the Twins Tuesday had set the wrong tone for this six-game dog-days showdown between the AL Central contenders. Garcia's outing hardly could have been called "pitching," even though the Twins had praised the ex-fireballer's in-and-out craftsmanship before they took their whacks at him.
A pitcher with great stuff like Danks can slow down, if not stop, the powerful Twins. That augers well for tonight's scheduled starter, Gavin Floyd. The Sox do have an edge on the Twins in starting pitching and are likely equals when bullpens are compared. The Twins' lineup is deeper, especially when Justin Morneau, still recovering from a concussion, comes back. But, as stated a few hours ago, Ozzie Guillen is nuts if he gives Garcia another start against the Twins. Edwin Jackson and his quality, plus stuff have to take the mound.
Danks' outing had to share co-billing with another Guillen standup comedy routine before the game. He came off like the Twins' No. 1 fan, claiming they've had good teams all the way through since 1985, his AL Rookie of the Year season as a Sox shortstop (there were some dreadful Tom Kelly teams from 1994 to 2000, Andy MacPhail's legacy after he left to improve the Cubs slow, steadily and unspectacularly).
Guillen annointed a new center fielder for the Twins named "Swan." No relation to Craig Swan, the old Mets pitcher whom Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, an old Met himself, knows. He might have meant Denard Span, but like old Mayor Daley, listen to what I mean, not what I say. Guillen called Michael Cuddyer the most underrated player in baseball -- hey, he must know Cuddyer also wants to pitch in addition to his infield and outfield work. And, last but not least, Guillen tried to retire his trademark nickname of "pirahnas" for the Twins. Cuddyer defined northwest Indiana native Jason Repko as a newly-arrived "outfield pirahna," so the nickname still applies.
Guillen is like a wind sock. He changes every day. On Tuesday he said he'd keep Carlos Quentin down in the lineup to take pressure off the slumping slugger. Quentin homered. On Wednesday, Quentin was moved back up to No. 5. He homered again. Maybe Quentin will bat No. 2 Thursday.
Stay tuned to what Ozzie says. That's why, they say, baseball is unpredictable. Fortunately, you can get a better bead on consistency by watching a Danks performance. It came at just the right time. Two more just like that against the Twins this season (please, not another game No. 163) will get his manager talking postseason baseball than hero worship of his division rivals.