CHICAGO - In the two biggest games of his life - in the two biggest games of the Chicago White Sox's season - John Danks has come up big. Make that huge.
Starting the American League Central tiebreaker Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins, the second-year left-hander threw eight shutout innings. In the AL Division Series stay-alive game yesterday, he gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Both times the White Sox survived, and the 5-3 victory yesterday over the Tampa Bay Rays forced a Game 4 in the best-of-five series.
Less than 24 hours after the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers, dashing Chicago's hopes for a crosstown World Series, the White Sox avoided elimination before a black-shirted, white towel-waving announced crowd of 40,142 in their home park.
It all started with Danks, 23.
"You see him grow every time out," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It's amazing. ... I've never seen one guy grow so much from one year to the next."
Danks indeed has grown into a big-game pitcher, and the league is starting to notice.
"Danks, I'm a big fan of his," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He pitched very well."
Still, Danks needs reminders from time to time. And so it was in the sixth inning, when he walked leadoff hitter Evan Longoria and went to 2-0 on Carl Crawford, that manager Ozzie Guillen visited the mound.
"Ozzie just told me the only way I'm going to get beat is by putting guys on base and not being aggressive," Danks said. "He basically said to just throw strikes."
Did he ever, striking out the next two hitters and retiring the third on a fly ball.
And when he left after giving up a two-run homer in the seventh inning, the bullpen shut down the Rays. That included an inning-ending strikeout of Longoria by Octavio Dotel.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.