CHICAGO - Despite the White Sox offense again struggling to provide much run support for John Danks on Saturday, left fielder Brent Lillibridge found a different way to help out his pitcher.
With his team clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Lillibridge used a perfectly-timed jump at the wall to rob Oakland's Coco Crisp of a two-run homer to preserve the lead and give the White Sox a 3-2 win over the A's. As Lillibridge came down with the ball, the U.S. Cellular Field crowd of 24,391 erupted while Danks stood to the third-base side of the mound in awe with both hands on his head.
"I'm speechless, I really am," Danks said after the game. "That was unbelievable. Coco hit it on the barrel, I thought it was halfway up the concourse. Luckily the weather kind of knocked it down, but Brent made a heck of a play out there."
Danks left to a standing ovation after that play, allowing two earned runs over 7 2/3 innings for his second straight victory after starting the season 0-8. One night after manager Ozzie Guillen's club allowed four runs in the ninth in a 7-5 loss to the A's, Jesse Crain came on to retire Cliff Pennington to end the eighth before pitching a scoreless ninth for his first save.
"I keep saying, when you play good defense, the pitching is better," Guillen said. "Helping Danks, he pitched very well, and Crain comes out and closes the game. Outstanding by everyone. [It was] a great job coming back after last night's game."
The late-game dramatics were only necessary because of a number of missed opportunities early by the White Sox. They left the bases loaded in both the second and fifth innings, went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners.
"We should be disappointed," Guillen said about the runners left on base. "We had opportunities early in the game and we didn't have the big hit. That's why late in the game we got tied up and we needed those runs."
Danks managed to pick up his second straight victory despite the lack of run support from the offense, which has become typical for the left-hander. With the three runs on Saturday night, the White Sox have scored just 35 runs in Danks' 13 starts.
"This is awesome," Danks said. "Who would have thought I'd be celebrating being 2-8? But you know what, June's a new month, I'm looking at it that way. I'm going to put the first two months behind me and really focus on just making the next four months my whole season this year, and I'm off to a good start."
Catcher Ramon Castro, who hit a solo shot to lead off the fourth inning that temporarily put the White Sox ahead, 2-1, said Danks' win-loss record is deceiving.
"He's been throwing the ball pretty good all year," Castro said. "Only in Toronto, he was all over the place. Other than that, he's been great. When we hit when he pitches, it works out all right."
Unable to come through with timely hits, the White Sox managed just enough offense by working the basepaths and taking advantage of an uncharacteristically wild outing by Gio Gonzalez, who issued a career-high seven walks. Gonzalez also allowed Alexei Ramirez to score on one of his two wild pitches to put the White Sox on the board in the third inning.
"I just need to throw strikes, pound the strike zone," Gonzalez said. "I felt like I was close enough to where I could get some contact, but the White Sox have a great eye."
Lillibridge also scored the eventual game-winning run on a string of sloppy plays by the A's after reaching on a walk in the sixth. The White Sox utility man stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Kurt Suzuki on the steal attempt and then scored on an errant throw by reliever Brad Ziegler, who was attempting to start an inning-ending double play.
To his teammates, that type of all-around performance from Lillibridge has become routine.
"Obviously Paulie [Konerko], Alexei and [Carlos] Quentin are having just huge years, but you have to think of him as team MVP at this point," Danks said of Lillibridge. "We were talking amongst ourselves and you've got to find him a spot in the field every day, that's how good he's been playing this year."
Though Lillibridge has seen a decent amount of playing time recently, it has come mostly in right or center field. Lillibridge, who Guillen said is "no doubt" the White Sox best outfielder, was making just his third career start -- all of which have come this season -- in left field.
"It's just working the outfield during batting practice, get some feel for it and just trust your first instinct and run after the ball," Lillibridge said about his versatility in the outfield. "It's a lot of fun diving for balls and jumping at the fence and that kind of stuff.
"It was an unbelievable experience the ways the fans cheered for me tonight. That's something I'll always remember."
With the win the White Sox improved to 32-35 and, coupled with the Indians' 4-0 loss to the Yankees, moved to within 4 1/2 games of the division-leading Tribe.
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.