While Jim Thome reached another milestone Sunday, John Danks took another step toward the dependability the White Sox have sought since he joined the starting rotation last season.
Danks (2-1) extended his scoreless streak to 14 2/3 innings while pitching the Sox to a 6-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to cap their second winning trip of the season.
Danks has thrown seven innings in two consecutive starts for the first time in his young career. Both performances came after Sox losses, and his teammates are gaining confidence in the 23-year-old left-hander, who went 6-13 in his rookie season and was shut down for the final 21/2 weeks.
"My goal is not to be the guy I was last year," Danks said. "Last year I was the guy who when someone would ask who is pitching, and they would say me, it was like, 'We need to strap it on and score.'
"I don't want that. I want to be the guy who the team knows is going to hold them to three or less runs and give them a chance to win."
Thome moved into a tie for 19th place on baseball's career home run list with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews by slugging his 512th homer in the first inning. Thome had the 10th four-hit game of his career.
Danks, meanwhile, didn't walk a batter for the first time since April 25, 2007, and was equally pleased that he threw 68 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
"I'm going to let him grow up," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We're going to protect him too. He only threw [96 pitches] and he could have gone out for another inning, but I didn't think it was necessary for him to do it. When the kid throws good and I send him back out there, all of a sudden he gives up two runs. He still feels good because he will get the win, but he's not going to feel the way he should feel.
"That's why we try and protect him —not by pitching, but by protecting a winning attitude."
Danks collected six of his eight strikeouts in the first three innings and retired nine consecutive batters after allowing a single to Carl Crawford to start the fourth. He provided a masterful ending to the rotation's work on this five-game trip. The starters posted a 2.16 ERA, including the five runs allowed by ace Mark Buehrle in Saturday night's loss.
Danks and Gavin Floyd, the two most inexperienced starters, have four of the Sox's 11 victories while allowing four earned runs in five of their combined six starts.
"When [Danks] was behind in the count, he was throwing breaking balls for strikes," Guillen said. "That's confidence. When you're a rookie and you struggle like he did, you grow up real quick in this game. Hopefully he continues to do it. We count on him. Everyone we put out there is expected to throw good games."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun