CHICAGO -- At long last, the Chicago White Sox are getting the starting pitching they expected. And they're getting much more than they anticipated from ageless Omar Vizquel.
The 43-year-old Vizquel homered for the first time in nearly a year and also had a suicide-squeeze bunt in support of John Danks, who pitched seven innings of one-hit ball as Chicago beat the Detroit Tigers 3-0 on Thursday.The White Sox thought they'd have one of baseball's best rotations: Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia and Danks. But their starters went into this week's series against Detroit with an AL-worst 5.28 ERA.Floyd, Garcia and Danks then combined to allow only four runs to Detroit, and the White Sox won the last two games of the series -- only their fourth winning streak of any kind all season.Chicago is 26-33, four games behind the second-place Tigers and well back of AL Central-leading Minnesota."We're better than what we've done," said Danks, who was 1-5 with a 5.05 ERA in his previous seven starts. "We know we can get outs, get deep in games and give us a chance to win every time out. This might be the run that gets us on a roll."During an expletive-filled postgame rant after the Tigers got held to three hits, manager Jim Leyland said White Sox starters couldn't have gotten on a roll without significant help from Detroit's flailing batters.Ticking off the names of Floyd, Garcia and Danks, Leyland said, "You've got to hit somebody.""They're good pitchers, don't misunderstand me. But three straight days, inning after inning, day after day," he said. "I'm not upset with anybody, I'm just stating fact."The Tigers were 24-17 and tied for first place on May 20 but are 6-12 since.Max Scherzer (2-6) pitched well for the Tigers -- three runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings -- but allowed homers to Vizquel and A.J. Pierzynski and earned his manager's ire by failing to execute a pitchout on Vizquel's sixth-inning squeeze."Cost him a run," Leyland said. "You can't make those mistakes."Vizquel's first home run since last Aug. 7 also was his 2,724th hit, tying Roberto Alomar for 54th on the career list.One of the best shortstops ever, Vizquel had been a seldom-used utility infielder this season until third baseman Mark Teahen broke his finger two weeks ago. Vizquel was batting .196 on May 29 but is hitting .344 with eight RBIs in nine games since Teahen's injury."It's hard to come off the bench and play once or twice a week, hard to maintain your timing at the plate," Vizquel said. "I believe if I get more playing time, I can still be the player I was."Like the rest of the team -- including GM Ken Williams, who on Wednesday threatened to make significant changes -- Vizquel is surprised by Chicago's poor start."I never thought this team was going to be in this situation," he said. "It's about time things get turned around."Danks (5-5) walked four and struck out four. Carlos Guillen's second-inning single was the only hit he allowed.He was helped by the absence of Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez, who is batting .609 in 23 at-bats against the left-hander. Ordonez, who has a .336 career average against the White Sox, missed the three-game series with a sore left side.Sergio Santos relieved to start the eighth with a 2-0 lead and gave up Gerald Laird's single before walking Austin Jackson and Johnny Damon with one out. Ryan Raburn, Ordonez's replacement, hit a foul pop and Miguel Cabrera struck out chasing a low, 3-2 changeup.Cabrera entered the game batting .343 with 53 RBIs and 18 homers -- including 10 in his last 16 games. Pierzynski, Chicago's catcher, went to the mound before the 3-2 pitch."He said, 'Believe in your stuff. It's good enough to get this guy out,'" Santos said. "I had thrown [Cabrera] four straight fastballs, so I just figured if I could make any kind of pitch resembling a fastball he would be swinging -- and luckily he did."Pierzynski homered on Scherzer's first pitch of the eighth.Bobby Jenks worked the ninth inning for his 10th save.
The White Sox open a three-game series Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Peavy, who wanted to be traded to the Cubs before agreeing to come to the White Sox last year, starts the opener. ... Detroit fell to 13-14 in AL Central games, meaning only the Twins have a winning record within the division. ... Gordon Beckham doubled and eventually scored on Vizquel's squeeze. It was the second straight game with a double after going 112 consecutive at-bats without an extra-base hit.