The White Sox (76-54) defeated the Minnesota Twins 6-1 on Sunday to move one-half game behind them in the wild card race and avoid a three-game sweep. The Twins open a three-game series with the worst team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals, at the Metrodome on Tuesday.
“The Twins are really good, and we have a ton of respect for the way they go about their business,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
“With them and Detroit ahead of us, we can’t take a day off. We can’t relax, no matter who we are playing against.”
Chicago enters this series 5 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading Tigers, who begin a three-game set with the AL East-leading New York Yankees on Tuesday.
Pierzynski and Joe Crede hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning of Sunday’s win as the White Sox finished 13-11 in a stretch of 24 games in 24 days.
Freddy Garcia (12-8, 4.99 ERA) hopes he can help Chicago at least keep pace in the playoff race and win consecutive starts for the first time since June.
The right-hander won three starts in a row from June 16-28, but is 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA over 10 starts since.
He allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-5 win over the Tigers on Wednesday.
“How I pitched tonight, I should have pitched better,” Garcia said. “The offense was great and the bullpen came up and got it done.”
Garcia has not defeated the Devil Rays since May 2002 while with the Seattle Mariners, going 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA in his last five starts against them. He has not faced Tampa Bay this season.
The Venezuela native has struggled with runners on base, as opponents are 32-of-33 (97 percent) in stolen base attempts this season. It is the best success rate a team has against any AL pitcher.
“The thing that kills us is the stolen bases,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We don’t hold the runners well, and every time they steal bases, they score. That’s not good for our ballclub.”
The White Sox have only thrown out 21-of-120 base stealers this season, with opponents swiping 10 in a row since Aug. 17.
Tampa Bay (52-79) may be able to take advantage of that, leading the league with 106 stolen bases.
Carl Crawford has 43 of those steals and has been one of the few bright spots for the Devil Rays this season. The left fielder leads the team in batting (.315) and RBIs (66) while hitting a career-high 16 homers.
Crawford is hitting .429 with seven stolen bases in his last 13 games and has a good chance to build on it against Garcia. He has gone 5-for-12 (.417) with one homer and a steal against the Chicago starter.
Casey Fossum (6-5, 4.91) hopes he will benefit from some offense after getting a total of four runs of support over his last three outings.
The left-hander is 0-1 with a 7.24 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 13 2-3 innings in those three starts.
The last time Fossum faced the White Sox came at U.S. Cellular Field on July 6, 2005, when he was tagged for seven runs and 11 hits over six innings in a 7-2 loss. He won his only other start against them.
Fossum is not expected to face Jim Thome, who is likely to miss his fifth consecutive game on Tuesday due to a strained left hamstring.
“I told Thome to take his time and not hurry back,” Guillen said. “We can fill the hole for a couple of games, but not the rest of the season.”
Guillen has used Paul Konerko as the designated hitter in Thome’s absence while starting Ross Gload at first base. While Gload went 6-for-12 with a homer in the series against Minnesota, Konerko is 9-for-22 (.409) with two homers and seven RBIs over the last five games.
Late Monday, Tampa Bay recalled outfielder Delmon Young, the top overall pick in the 2003 draft. He served a 50-game suspension this season after throwing a bat at an umpire during a minor league game.
After returning to the lineup for Triple-A Durham in June, he hit .318 with eight homers and 57 RBIs.