<
>

Just win, baby

CHICAGO -- The question is what Wednesday's game even means in the bigger scheme, if it really means anything at all. But then that's the trouble with those bigger schemes. We can't know. Not until it's too late for one team and a moot point for the other.

Was the White Sox's 4-1 victory at Wrigley Field more a statement of the Cubs' continued offensive ineptitude than of the relative greatness of winning pitcher John Danks?

The White Sox don't particularly care, nor should they. Carlos Zambrano looms Thursday; they still have more questions than answers, and no one knows whether general manager Kenny Williams will end up as buyer or seller come the trade deadline.


What they do know is that Danks, despite having taken the loss in his two previous outings, appears to be headed in the right direction. And their youngsters come out of a relative pressure cooker with a positive experience.

"I knew [Gordon] Beckham would be scared," Sox sage A.J. Pierzynski said of his 22-year-old third baseman. "He was in Omaha this time last year playing in the College World Series, and now he's in the big leagues playing in Wrigley Field. That's a big difference…

" I talked to him and said, 'This is it. This is the thing everyone's going to look at. Just have fun, soak it in, don't get overwhelmed by the moment.'"

In hindsight, saying that this is "the thing everyone's going to look at" to a kid who has never glimpsed Wrigley Field before and was entering the game hitting .114 might not have been the best way to calm him down. But then that's probably nitpicking.

"He booted one, but then came back and made a great play for a double play," Pierzynski said. "He also had a big base hit for us. Hopefully, he turned the corner. I told him, 'Now you're in the big leagues.'"

For the Sox, it was their third straight victory and fourth in their past five games. They scratched out the victory with good defense, timely hitting and a little razzle-dazzle. A suicide squeeze by Scott Podsednik drove in Chris Getz in the seventh inning to build a 3-0 cushion.

Someone asked Ozzie Guillen afterward whether the bunt was his call, and he actually managed to answer without an expletive. Funny how much easier that is in the winners' clubhouse.

"I'm the manager. I guess," said Guillen, to a round of laughter.

"This ballclub hits so many ground balls into double plays … I almost tried to do it before. I got the right people in the right place."

Which is, of course, what the game is all about when it's played well.

Podsednik is in the perfect place at leadoff; Alexei Ramirez, who calmed down Danks with a solo home run in the first, has started to look more comfortable in the No. 2 hole. And Danks certainly looked like the No. 3 pitcher everyone envisioned this season, going seven innings, allowing one earned run that scored after he exited and tallying nine strikeouts and no walks -- "The bur in my boot, as they say back home," Danks said of avoiding walks.

"I think pitching here last year really helped, knowing what the atmosphere is going to be like," he said. "I didn't have jitters I had last year in this game … I feel like I'm finally getting back on track. I know it's only two starts, but at the same time, it's two big starts for me. There's still two-thirds of the season to play, and I have plenty of time to turn this around and salvage the season."

So do the Sox.

"You have to think like that," Podsednik said. "If you start thinking negatively, it's just going to eat you up."

Instead, Guillen is going for the loose approach -- this week, anyway. Before the game, he walked around the clubhouse wearing a T-shirt he had purchased outside the park the day before.

"Ozzie mows Wrigley Field," it read, a cartoon of the Sox manager doing the gardening.

How to take that? It didn't matter.

"I might cut lawns, but I don't stand in the rain selling T-shirts," Guillen said with a laugh.

As it turned out Wednesday, it was the last laugh.