CHICAGO - Monday's 7-5 White Sox victory at U.S. Cellular Field was not a game that Robin Ventura's crew looked like it should win.
In fact, the Tigers' early dominance and assault on John Danks had all the earmarks of a Detroit rout. But when first baseman Paul Konerko made a slick pickup of pinch-hitter Alex Avila's grounder with two outs and two on in the ninth inning, his flip to closer Addison Reed (third save) sealed the club's fourth win in seven games played against the odds-on favorite in the American League Central.
Detroit (17-18) was retired in order just once, leaving 13 on base. Its 3-for-17 showing with runners in scoring position helped the White Sox (17-19) grab what they hope is a momentum-building victory.
"That was a good win," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, whose two-run homer in the first off Drew Smyly was his 12th, topping last year's total of 11, and his first against a left-handed pitcher since Aug. 6, 2010, when he took the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw deep twice.
"We got down but we kept battling and just grinding," Dunn continued. "The bullpen came in and gave us a lot of good innings."
The White Sox relief corps of Zach Stewart (1-1), Hector Santiago, Matt Thornton and Reed combined for six scoreless innings. They were given that sort of challenge after Danks yielded five earned runs on nine hits over three-plus innings.
Danks seemed to get back on track with his last start at Progressive Field, where the Indians could only manage two runs in seven innings, but he took a significant step backward Monday. Danks didn't record a strikeout and walked three, giving him two strikeouts and seven walks over his last three starts and 17 innings pitched.
Getting the victory made the night a win for Danks, who always has put the team first. And while he harshly criticized his 80-pitch effort, his confidence certainly didn't seem crushed by continued struggles.
"I'm glad to win for sure," Danks said. "As far as me personally, I've got to continue to work. I know I have it in me. I feel like a broken record now, but I've just got to continue to work. Fortunately, we have two of the best pitching instructors here and coaches willing to work with us and we'll get it ironed out."
"He's trying to find it," said Ventura of Danks. "He's frustrated, too, but you know that's the least of my worries is him. You know what you are getting with him. He's a bulldog and you are always going to get that. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not worried about him. He's going to be fine."
Three runs scored for Detroit in the first on Prince Fielder's two-run double and Delmon Young's double, and two more came across in the third on a bases-loaded walk to Jhonny Peralta and Gerald Laird's sacrifice fly. The biggest moment for Detroit came in the second, during a frame in which it didn't score.
After Danks retired the first two hitters on routine grounders, Austin Jackson doubled and Andy Dirks was hit by a pitch. Miguel Cabrera hit Danks' next pitch on the ground and down the third-base line, a hard-hit ball that started fair, went over the bag and then kicked up chalk when it landed fair.
Third-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis didn't see it that way, ruling it a foul ball and potentially costing the Tigers two runs. Cabrera flew out to end the inning after manager Jim Leyland argued the call.
White Sox third baseman Brent Morel said the ball looked foul, although he was told replays showed differently. Ventura didn't see the play from the third-base dugout, and Leyland wouldn't blame the loss on the apparent missed call.
"No complaints about that. That's part of the game," Leyland said. "It was a fair ball, but we had some other opportunities and we didn't get the guys home and that ended up backfiring on us."
Stewart held the Tigers down long enough to give the White Sox a chance to rally, hurling three scoreless innings. Dayan Viciedo cut a three-run lead to 5-4 with a two-run shot in the fifth, and it was Viciedo who sparked a three-run sixth that gave the White Sox the victory. He singled home two runs with a grounder up the middle against Luke Putkonen (0-2), and Morel followed with a run-scoring single.
"I was really just thinking about staying relaxed," said Viciedo through translator and White Sox director of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "I had a good at-bat the one before that, I made good contact, so my whole mind frame was to do the same."
Heroes were aplenty in this White Sox victory, a game that looked like it belonged to the Tigers from the start. It's just that the Tigers, on paper, are not supposed to be a team the White Sox, in a modified rebuilding process, should come close to catching in the AL Central. Yet, the South Siders are just a half-game behind the Tigers with ace Jake Peavy taking the mound on Tuesday afternoon.
"Nobody is laying down, that's the thing," Ventura said. "Even though we got down three, we got guys still going to the plate fighting and grinding. It's a nice night."
"Any time we can get a win in the division that helps," Danks said. "Obviously, I didn't help our cause much, but the other guys picked me up. It's just a testament to this team, the mentality of the team."