It only took one series for the Chicago White Sox get their offense back on track, and they’re hoping the surge doesn’t stop there.
The White Sox look to continue the hot hitting Friday, when they begin a four-game home series against the Minnesota Twins in a matchup of the top two teams in the AL Central.
Chicago (32-26) headed into its current seven-game homestand after totaling just nine runs while losing three of four games at Tampa Bay.
The White Sox quickly responded, sweeping Kansas City in three games, culminating in a 6-2 victory on Thursday night behind Jim Thome’s 12th homer of the season and two RBIs from Orlando Cabrera. They finished with 21 runs in the series and collected at least 10 hits in each game.
“It’s great, believe me,” said Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen, whose club improved to 17-8 against division rivals. “You can see the difference in the dugout. It seems like everybody is attacking pitches and putting good swings on the ball.”
The division-leading White Sox now face another AL Central foe in Minnesota (31-29), which is only 2 1/2 games back.
“This is a big series,” Guillen said. “It’s not a ‘Wow, this is the series of the year,’ but it’s a big series.”
Guillen sends Javier Vazquez (5-4, 3.43 ERA) to the mound looking to bounce back from his first loss in five starts.
Vazquez deserved a better fate Saturday, striking out a season-high 10 and limiting Tampa Bay to two runs over seven innings, but received no run support and suffered a 2-0 loss to the Rays.
The right-hander defeated the Twins on April 7, when he surrendered three runs in seven innings of a 7-4 home win.
Minnesota counters with Nick Blackburn (4-3, 3.32), who left his start against the New York Yankees on Sunday after being hit in the face by a Bobby Abreu line drive. Fortunately, the rookie right-hander escaped with a bruised nose and upper lip and will be able to make this start.
He left without a decision after allowing one run in 4 1-3 innings, and the Twins went on to win 5-1.
Blackburn is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts against the White Sox this season.
Minnesota opens a 10-game road swing after dropping two of three at home to Baltimore, including a 3-2 loss on Thursday.
“These are the kind of games when you need one big hit, and we couldn’t come up with it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of his club, which has lost four of seven after a four-game winning streak May 25-29.
The Twins will be without shortstop Nick Punto, who returned to the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained left hamstring. He had just come off the DL on Saturday, but aggravated the injury that night against New York.
Meanwhile, the White Sox hope to have third baseman Joe Crede back in the lineup after he missed Thursday’s game with a bruised right wrist.
Minnesota has taken four of seven meetings between these clubs this season, although Chicago owns a 3-2 edge at U.S. Cellular Field.