The White Sox (59-38) meet the Twins (56-41) in the start of a key three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday with just three games separating them in the wild card race.
On June 7, Chicago was 36-22 and one-half game behind AL Central-leading Detroit. Minnesota was a season-worst eight games below .500 at 25-33 and in fourth place, 11 1/2 games back of the Tigers.
Both teams have gone in different directions since then as they chase the Tigers and the wild card spot. The defending World Series champions have gone 23-16, but have fallen 6 1/2 games in back of the Tigers.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has won 31 of 39—posting two eight-game winning streaks and a season-high 11-game run from June 22-July 3—and are one-half game behind the New York Yankees for second in the wild card.
“The last time we went into Chicago they really handed it to us,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said after his team was outscored 23-6 in a three-game sweep from April 21-23. “We’re a different team now. I think we’ll be able to handle it better.”
The Twins also have continued to win despite injuries. Outfielders Torii Hunter (stress fracture in left foot), Shannon Stewart (sore left foot) and Lew Ford (strained oblique) all are on the disabled list.
This is the first of 12 games between the teams over the remainder of the season. They conclude the regular season with a three-game set from Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Minneapolis.
Brad Radke (8-7, 4.83 ERA) will try to build off his first July win for the Twins. On Wednesday, he limited Tampa Bay to two runs and four hits over seven innings of a 7-2 victory.
“I felt I had good command of my fastball and had a pretty good breaking ball. I just kept them off-balance,” said Radke, who is 4-0 with a 2.66 ERA in eight starts since his last loss on June 3.
Radke, though, has struggled on the road. He gained a win April 5 at Toronto, but is 0-5 with a 6.59 ERA in his last eight starts away from the Metrodome. Minnesota is 1-7 during that stretch when Radke pitches.
The right-hander is 1-1 with an 8.44 ERA in two starts this year against the White Sox. He was roughed up in his outing against them on April 22 at Chicago, giving up six runs and 10 hits through five innings of a 9-2 loss.
Radke is 15-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 33 career starts against Chicago, but has not won on the South Side since July 26, 2004.
Javier Vazquez (9-5, 5.20) looks for his seventh straight home win as he starts for Chicago. After dropping his U.S. Cellular Field debut on April 14, the right-hander is 6-0 with a 4.76 ERA in eight starts, allowing only six homers in 51 innings.
Vazquez lost his only start this season against Minnesota, yielding seven runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings of an 8-4 road loss on May 13.
Vazquez is 1-2 in his career against the Twins and his 7.20 ERA is the second highest against any opponent. He has a 7.50 ERA in three career starts against Oakland.
He was reached for five runs and seven hits over six innings in Chicago’s 5-2 loss Wednesday to AL Central-leading Detroit. All five runs came in the sixth, including a grand slam by Craig Monroe.
“It’s frustrating,” Vazquez said. “I threw the ball OK, even in the sixth, but they get a couple bloopers. The bases are loaded, it’s 2-1, and I didn’t want it to get out of hand. Then I hang a slider and they get the home run.”
The White Sox avoided being swept by Texas after a 5-0 victory Sunday. Scott Podsednik homered and drove in three for Chicago, which won for just the third time in 12 games.
“Huge. Huge,” he said of the win. “This one, hopefully, will give us some momentum going into the next series.”
White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome is hitting only .208 (5-for-24) in seven games against Minnesota this season, but has homered three times. He’s second in the AL with 32 homers overall.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who leads the majors with a .381 average, is hitting .440 (11-for-25) with two homers against Chicago this season.
Minnesota third baseman Nick Punto will try to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He went 2-for-5 in a 3-1 win over Cleveland Sunday and is batting .424 (25-for-59) during his run.
Punto is hitting .321 this season after batting just .239 in 112 games last year.