Few teams have had better starting pitching lately than the Chicago White Sox. Of course, facing the punchless Houston Astros the last two nights hasn't hurt.
John Danks will try to continue that strong run - and one of his own - Sunday as the White Sox aim to complete a three-game sweep of the visiting Astros.
While there's still plenty of work to do for the White Sox (47-51) to even reach .500, their starting pitching has provided a huge lift lately. Hector Noesi turned in the team's 15th quality start in 22 games Saturday in a 4-3 victory over Houston.
"These guys are going to come out and compete and try to win every game and grind every at-bat," manager Robin Ventura told MLB's official website. "That's all you can ask these guys to do. I'm not going to sit here in July and start making statements that you are going to make the playoffs or not make the playoffs."
Tyler Flowers went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and is 6 for 9 in his last three games after going 10 for 112 in his previous 34.
''I don't know if I'm quite locked in yet,'' Flowers said. ''It's good to put some quality at-bats together."
Chicago starters have posted a 2.92 ERA since June 23, the best mark in the AL during that span and third-best in the majors. Opponents are batting .197 against White Sox starters over the past 13 contests.
Danks (8-6, 3.99 ERA) has played a role in that recent success, recording quality starts in three of four and eight of his last 10 outings. He's 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in that stretch.
The left-hander was very sharp in his final start before the break, limiting Cleveland to one run over seven innings last Sunday before the White Sox's bullpen came up short in a 3-2 loss.
Danks, though, has never fared well against the Astros, losing all three starts while posting a 7.71 ERA. His worst performance of the season came in an 8-2 loss at Houston on May 18, when he was tagged for eight runs and 10 hits - including three homers - in 4 2-3 innings.
Matt Dominguez hit two homers off Danks in that game and Chris Carter has taken him deep twice in six at-bats.
Chicago rookie sensation Jose Abreu has hit safely in 28 of his last 29 games, but is just 2 for 15 this season against the Astros (40-58).
George Springer accounted for Houston's first run Saturday with his 20th homer, leaving him one shy of Lance Berkman's franchise rookie record set in 2000. Since hitting his first major league home run on May 8, Springer trails only Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion (22) in that category.
The Astros, last in the AL in runs and batting average, have lost four of five while totaling 11 runs and hitting .188.
They'll send Jarred Cosart (9-6, 4.17) to the mound hoping he can help them avoid the sweep. The right-hander won four straight starts with a 2.25 ERA before struggling in his final two outings before the All-Star break. He allowed 12 runs and 18 hits over 10 2-3 innings in those games.
Cosart, who has won four consecutive road starts, is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two career outings against the White Sox despite walking nine in 11 innings.