The Twins look for their first 4-0 start in 20 years as they travel to meet the White Sox on Friday night in the start of a three-game series.
“Anytime we go into Chicago or they come to us, there is something a little extra there,” Twins third baseman Nick Punto said on the team’s official Web site. “Over the past four years I’ve been here, it’s become an intense rivalry.
“We enjoy beating each other up pretty well. We have battles but we have a lot of respect for them, and they have a lot of respect for us. But there’s no question, we really enjoy beating them.”
The teams had split the first 18 games of last year’s series before meeting on Oct. 1. Minnesota’s Carlos Silva outpitched Javier Vazquez, limiting the White Sox to one run and five hits through 5 1-3 innings of a 5-1 victory. That win, combined with a loss by Detroit later that day, gave Minnesota (3-0) its fourth AL Central title in five years.
Silva and Vazquez will square off again in this contest. Silva, a right-hander, was 11-15 with a career-worst 5.94 ERA in 36 games, including 31 starts last year. He was 1-2 with a 8.10 ERA and gave up 30 hits—including eight homers—in 16 2-3 innings over three starts at U.S. Cellular Field.
Vazquez was 11-12 with a 4.84 ERA in 2006 with the White Sox—his fourth team in as many seasons. In five starts last season against the Twins, though, the right-hander struggled to an 0-4 record with a 6.83 ERA.
Twins first baseman and reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau batted .315 (23-for-73) with three homers and 14 RBIs in 18 games versus the White Sox. Veteran center fielder Torii Hunter had 17 hits in 16 games off Chicago pitching, but seven of those hits were home runs.
Minnesota started 2007 with a three-game sweep of Baltimore, capped by a 7-2 win on Wednesday night. Michael Cuddyer had three hits and two RBIs before leaving with a cut on his chin, and Luis Castillo added two hits and two RBIs from the lead off spot.
That was enough for Ramon Ortiz, who gave up two runs and five hits over seven innings to win his Twins debut.
“He was wonderful out there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Ortiz. “He was using all of his pitches, throwing the ball in and out. He attacks the hitters, and doesn’t back away too many times. It was what we had hoped to see.”
The Twins (3-0) haven’t opened a season with four straight wins since 1987, the year they went on to win their first World Series.
Chicago (1-2), meanwhile, avoided its first 0-3 start since 2003 by beating Cleveland 4-3 on Thursday. A.J. Pierzynski was hit by a pitch from Roberto Hernandez with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, forcing home pinch-runner Rob Mackowiak with the winning run.
“I looked at (home plate umpire Greg Gibson) and then he kind of nodded,” Pierzynski said. “He knew it hit me but he wasn’t sure until I made the motion.”
Jim Thome was 0-for-3 with a walk and is hitting only .167 (2-for-12). Though he hit 42 homers last year for the White Sox, Thome was held without a hit in eight of 15 games versus the Twins.