SEATTLE -- If you want to talk with John Danks about his individual statistics representing this 2011 season, then it would have been better to get the stellar left-handed hurler back in Spring Training or sometime in early April.
"I'm not worried about my personal numbers," said a smiling Danks following the White Sox 3-0 whitewash of the Mariners before 30,522 at Safeco Field on Saturday, when Danks hurled his second career shutout on 120 pitches. "I gave up on those after the first two months."
Danks might now want to revisit those personal numbers.
Yes, one of the American League's elite left-handers inexplicably started the season with an 0-8 record, and no amount of petitioning to the league office will get a mulligan for him on those two months of results. But since the start of June, Danks has a 6-1 record and 2.03 ERA over 71 innings, raising his season's ledger to 6-9 and dropping his ERA to 3.63.
There was a period in late May when Danks was listed among the few starters who had made at least five trips to the mound and had yet to win a game. He's now included with the likes of Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Jon Lester for the lowest AL ERA since June 6.
And that group seems much more befitting someone of Danks' immense talents.
"Going into June, I said that I'm starting over and trying to salvage the season," said Danks, who matched a career high with 10 strikeouts as part of his fourth career complete game. "To this point, it's been all right."
"You can see why he's having so much success," said Seattle third baseman Kyle Seagar. "He's a tough guy to pick up. He's got good stuff, and he locates it pretty well. He threw the ball really well tonight."
The White Sox didn't do much hitting against Seattle rookie sensation Michael Pineda in evening their record at 2-2 on this five-game road trip. Try three hits -- back-to-back-to-back -- to start the fourth inning.
That's all they produced against Pineda. More importantly, behind Danks, that's all they needed.
Chicago's first nine hitters were retired, with five coming via Pineda strikeout, before Juan Pierre reached on a bunt single to open the fourth. Alejandro De Aza's single up the middle sent Pierre to third, and Paul Konerko's hit-and-run single scored Pierre for his 87th RBI this season.
De Aza moved to third on Konerko's single, and scored on Alexei Ramirez's sacrifice fly. De Aza added his second homer in the eighth, coming off of reliever Chance Ruffin, for the 3-0 final margin. Pineda nearly matched Danks, with eight strikeouts and one walk allowed in six innings, but he still slipped to 9-8.
"He was really good. Live arm, command of the ball and threw some real good breaking balls," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge of Pineda, who throw 101 pitches. "He threw a good ballgame for us and he is staying strong, as we head to the end of August and into September."
"With the way Pineda was throwing, the first thing that goes through my mind is, we have to put the runners in motion," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That's what we did early in the game, because this kid can strike out anybody at any time. As soon as we got people on base, we started making some things happen. It worked out."
During his three-hit gem, Danks really only had to pitch out of two trouble spots in improving to 6-0 with a 0.80 ERA over his last seven starts against the Mariners (56-75) since Aug. 11, 2009. In the sixth, Danks issued a one-out walk to nine-hitter Brendan Ryan, and then gave up a single to Ichiro Suzuki. But Franklin Gutierrez went down looking at a 92-mph fastball, and Dustin Ackley popped out to left field.
Miguel Olivo doubled with one out in the seventh. But after Casper Wells swung wildly for a third strike on an 87-mph cutter, Ramirez robbed Willy Mo Pena of a hit and threw out the designated hitter at first base.
Although the changeup didn't factor into either of these important situations, Guillen felt Danks' usage of that pitch, and his ability to throw consistent strikes, has helped the southpaw get his season back toward the lofty preseason expectations.
"Today is the best he threw the ball in a long time," Guillen said. "His breaking ball, his changeup was outstanding."
"Well, you know what? He was real good today," said Wedge, in agreement with his managerial counterpart on Danks. "I saw him a lot when I was in Cleveland, and it was as good as I've seen him. He had good tempo going, good stuff and spotted his fastball as good as any left-handed starting pitcher we've seen."
This win moved the White Sox back to .500, at 65-65. They stayed a half game behind the Indians (65-64) and seven behind the Tigers (73-59) with just 32 games remaining to be played this season. Danks will have an extra day to recover from his season-high pitch count. But when he next takes the mound, it will be on Friday at Comerica Park, with Justin Verlander pitching for Detroit.
It won't be about getting closer to .500 for Danks, or besting the AL Cy Young Award favorite. Since June, it has been all about salvage work for Danks -- individually and with the White Sox fleeting playoff hopes.
"We don't feel like we're all the way out of it," Danks said. "We've got to win as many games as we can."
"Hopefully, when we get to Detroit, we are close," Guillen said. "That's all we can ask."