Minnesota (74-52) started slowly through the first two months of the season before turning it around. The Twins—who are 49-19 since June 8 after opening the season 25-33—pulled even with the White Sox (75-52) after sweeping a three-game series in Chicago from July 24-26, but were never able to take the lead.
“It’s the team ahead of us. You go in there and you want to win a series against them,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve been playing very good baseball. They’re a tough team at home. It’s tough to beat them.”
The Twins are now one-half game behind the defending World Series champions for the wild card and will send Brad Radke (12-9, 4.35 ERA) to the mound in an effort to surpass Chicago. Radke is 3-0 with a 3.66 ERA over his last five road starts.
However, the right-hander fell to 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in four starts against the White Sox this season when he gave up three runs—one earned—and six hits over five innings in a 4-1 loss Saturday at the Metrodome.
Still, Chicago expects a strong effort from the 12-year veteran.
“Radke is a very good pitcher, and he’s done it his whole career,” Chicago starter Javier Vazquez said. “You have to expect he’s going to throw a good game against us again.”
Radke’s loss Saturday is the only time the White Sox have beaten the Twins in the teams’ last six meetings.
Both teams are also still in contention for the AL Central title. Chicago trails first-place Detroit by 5 1/2 games and Minnesota is six games back.
Chicago will need to play without designated hitter Jim Thome, who is out due to a strained left hamstring.
“We have a good enough team, we have guys that can compete and do what they’re supposed to do to win,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We’ve got to deal with it. There’s not going to be any excuses, regardless of what we do against Minnesota.”
The White Sox will still have the red-hot Dye in the lineup. Dye went 3-for-3 with two homers to help Chicago salvage a split of a four-game series at Detroit with a 10-0 victory on Thursday.
Dye went 7-for-16 with four homers in the series against the Tigers. He has 14 RBIs in 11 games against the Twins this season.
Minnesota counter with its own hot hitter in Michael Cuddyer, who is 7-for-9 with five RBIs in his last two games. Cuddyer had four hits and Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter each homered in an 11-2 victory at Baltimore on Thursday.
“We’ve got some momentum going. They have momentum going as well,” Cuddyer said. “So it should make out for a fun weekend.”
Vazquez (11-8, 5.13) will face Minnesota for the second straight outing. He was the loser Sunday, when he gave up five runs and seven hits over five innings in a 7-3 loss.
The right-hander fell to 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in three starts against the Twins this year. Morneau and Cuddyer have combined to go 7-for-16 with eight RBIs against him this season.
Vazquez has benefitted from strong run support at home, where he is 7-3 despite a 5.28 ERA in 13 appearances.