The White Sox look to distance themselves from the second-place Twins as the division rivals open a four-game set on Monday at the Metrodome.
Chicago (59-44) has not been out of first place since May 16, and maintained its perch over the weekend by taking two of three from Detroit to start its 10-game road trip. The White Sox, however, dropped Sunday’s series finale 6-4 and watched their division lead shrink to just 2 1/2 games over Minnesota, which won 4-2 at Cleveland.
“They are just a good team,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski told the White Sox’s official Web site of the Twins. “They have good pitching and they don’t make mistakes. They use the field well. They put the ball in play and put pressure on you.”
The White Sox are 7-4 against the Twins (57-47) in the season series, including wins in the last five meetings. Chicago swept a four-game home set between the clubs June 6-9 by a combined score of 40-15. Since then, though, Minnesota is 26-14.
“After what happened the last time, we need to do better,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re in a situation where we need to win some games from them.”
Gardenhire’s club will have to contend with one of the White Sox’s hottest starters in Mark Buehrle (8-8, 3.56 ERA).
The left-hander is 6-2 with a 1.76 ERA in his last nine starts. He’s won his last two outings, including a 10-2 home victory over Texas on Tuesday in which he allowed one run and six hits over 7 1-3 innings.
“This is one of the better stretches I have been on in my career for this amount of time,” said Buehrle, who is 21-11 - his best record against any opponent - in his career versus Minnesota. He’s split a pair of starts against the Twins this season, but has won his last three outings at the Metrodome.
The Twins, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-4 road trip but have won seven of their last eight home games. Kevin Slowey (6-7, 4.41) takes the mound looking to extend the recent home success for both his team and himself.
Slowey has won his last three starts at the Metrodome, including a three-hit shutout of Milwaukee on June 29. The right-hander lost for the first time in seven overall starts Tuesday, though, yielding four runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-2 road loss to the New York Yankees.
Slowey has been hit hard in two losses to the White Sox this season - both in Chicago - giving up 11 runs and 14 hits over eight total innings.
Chicago’s Jermaine Dye is 3-for-8 (.375) with a homer and two RBIs in his career versus Slowey. The right fielder, who homered for the third straight game Sunday, is batting .487 (19-for-39) with four homers and 12 RBIs over his last 10 contests.