CHICAGO -- In a perfect White Sox world, John Danks would pitch scoreless baseball over six or seven innings every time out and Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo would be in the middle of their lineup slugging against opposing pitchers.
They had to settle for three of those four options on Saturday night at Wrigley Field, as the White Sox cruised to a 7-4 victory over the Cubs before 40,228 on a beautiful night for baseball. The final score was a bit deceiving after Alfonso Soriano and Joe Mather lofted a pair of two-run home runs off Zach Stewart in the ninth.
Prior to that outburst, the White Sox (20-21) were in complete control during their third straight victory. Part of the credit for this easy victory goes to the southpaw Danks (3-4), who battled out of a season-long funk to shut down a Cubs lineup featuring eight right-handed hitters.
The Cubs (15-25) actually didn't have a baserunner until one out in the fifth, when Soriano ripped a double down the left-field line.
"He went through us pretty easy, obviously," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum of Danks, who threw just 83 pitches over 6 1/3 scoreless innings before White Sox manager Robin Ventura pulled him when he felt he was getting fatigued. "We've been making it pretty easy on pitchers who have been coming in struggling. We're making them look pretty good. We're making quick outs and not getting good pitches to drive."
"I felt good, but there have been times this year where I felt good and then I'd lose some concentration maybe and whatever the case may be, things start to happen quickly," Danks said. "So it was focus, just stay on the attack and fortunately it worked out."
Danks carried a 6.46 ERA into this start and was coming off of a Monday effort against the Tigers in which he allowed five runs on nine hits in three-plus innings. It was just the fourth quality start this season for Danks, who struck out four and walked one. Over his previous three starts, covering 17 innings, Danks fanned two and walked seven.
Saturday's effort lowered Danks' ERA to 0.93 in his three career starts at Wrigley, which have resulted in two victories.
"This is a fun game. This is an exciting game. There's a lot of energy in the ballpark," Danks said. "This is a game I enjoy throwing in, for sure. I don't know how good or bad my numbers are here. But for sure, this is definitely a game I enjoy throwing in."
"When he gets strike one and gets going with his fastball and locating it, all his breaking stuff is better," Ventura said. "When he has command like that, he's tough to hit."
Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster (0-2) came into the game with a minuscule ERA of 1.74 but did not have a victory. He departed Saturday's game still winless and with an ERA checking in at 2.28 after allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings.
Two home runs and the wind blowing out to left did in Dempster on this evening. He allowed a single run in the first inning on Viciedo's one-out, two-strike single to center and then got caught by Viciedo again in the third for his seventh homer of the season. Viciedo's drive was struck well but looked like a deep fly ball that eventually carried into the basket in left-center, giving him 11 hits in his last 23 at-bats with four homers and 11 RBIs.
A.J. Pierzynski followed with a line shot to left-center for the club's second back-to-back homers this year. Pierzynski is 12-for-23 over his last five games, adding a double to his sixth home run, and continues to thrive at Wrigley.
"Here or at our place, the excitement, energy and atmosphere is so fun. This series is awesome," said Pierzynski, who is a career .300 hitter at Wrigley. "I love playing here. It's one of my favorite places to play.
"You wish you could duplicate this every game of the season. It's a special series and a special place once you get on the field."
Dunn added a prodigious clout off left-handed reliever James Russell during a three-run eighth. It was Dunn's 13th of 2012 and 42nd career homer against the Cubs, completing a night where he also reached base four times via walk.
After the victory was complete, Dunn pointed more to Viciedo's night than his own work.
"Viciedo has been swinging the bat really well and kind of took some pressure off John by scoring early," Dunn said. "He's a pretty confident kid and he never gets down on himself and he knows what he's capable of doing. When he's swinging the bat like he's swinging it now, it's fun to watch."
Jake Peavy gets the call Sunday in trying to complete the White Sox sweep, while also increasing their 17-6 dominance in the last 23 games against the Cubs. They have a 7-2 record in their last nine played at Wrigley and hold an all-time series edge of 47-39, not to mention improving to 156-111 in Interleague competition.
Konerko won't be available again on Sunday. But the White Sox hope to have back in the lineup Tuesday against the Twins when they return to American League competition possibly with a .500 record.