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Hellickson fans six over 5 2/3 shutout frames

Tampa Bay starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson said he's going to have about 40 family members and friends from his home town of Des Moines, Iowa, make the trip to Chicago on Friday for what is probably the biggest start of his season.

That's because his Rays and the White Sox are both fighting for their postseason lives, and Hellickson recognizes the importance of going up 2-0 in the four-game weekend series.

"It's a good lineup," Hellickson said. "I feel like I did well my last start, I'm coming off a good start. So I'll go out there and try to execute."

The Rays won the opener, 3-2, and extended their winning streak to eight games thanks in large part to a homer by Evan Longoria in the ninth inning. It allowed the club to get to within two games of Oakland for the second Wild Card and down to three with Baltimore for the first one.

The White Sox, meanwhile, lost their third straight and eighth of the last nine. Combined with Detroit's win Thursday, Chicago is two games behind in the American League Central.

Hellickson has pitched well recently, allowing three or fewer runs in each of his last five starts, but has gone just 1-1 with three no-decisions in that stretch.

Last time out against Toronto, he threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and two walks to go with six strikeouts.

But the White Sox are a completely different team, one that Hellickson hasn't seen in the first two years of his brief career, and he isn't sure if either side will have an edge Friday.

"Probably to both of our advantages," Hellickson said. "We've faced them four or five times, so I've seen them play. I know what kind of guys they've got. It's a very good lineup. I just have to go out there and do what I do."

Chicago counters with Gavin Floyd, who was on the losing end of two of his last three starts.

The most recent came Sunday against the Angels, who tagged him for four runs in six innings on seven hits and a walk but struck out eight times.

Floyd also hasn't made a start against the Rays this season but is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay in his career.

Rays: Longoria hopes history repeats itself
A year ago Friday, third baseman Evan Longoria sent the Rays to the postseason with his home run in an infamous Game 162.

Longoria recalled the game fondly Thursday, saying it was a special time that capped a miraculous stretch run for the Rays but that he couldn't point to any one moment of the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" that stood out.

He's hoping for similar results this season.

"This year, I really haven't given [Game 162] much thought," Longoria said. "I've been pretty focused on what's going on in here on a daily basis and how I can help us win in the situation we're in now."

White Sox: Danks could start throwing Nov. 1
Lefty John Danks underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery Aug. 6, but he is well ahead of schedule in his recovery and could start throwing when the calendar turns to November.

Danks, who hasn't pitched since May 19, said the news delivered by Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph was "music to my ears."

"This is the most upbeat I've been in a while because I'm seeing every day, every other day, every third day, some kind of improvement," Danks said. "I'm getting a little more each time out. It's good for me because I'm an impatient person -- I need to see results."

In just nine starts, Danks struggled, going 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.

Worth noting:
• The Rays struck out 12 batters on Wednesday, the 58th time this season the staff has struck out at least 10 batters in a game. That set a new Major League record, besting the 2003 Cubs.

• Chicago's starter for Sunday's home finale is yet to be named by manager Robin Ventura. Francisco Liriano and Jose Quintana are the likely candidates for the spot. Comments