The Minnesota Twins are emerging as the last contender to potentially wrest away the AL Central from the frontrunning Detroit Tigers, and they’re doing it at the expense of the flagging Chicago White Sox.
The divisional rivals meet for the last time at the Metrodome, where the Twins can complete a sweep of the three-game series and continue the White Sox’s misery on their current road trip.
Jose Morales(notes) had a walkoff pinch single in the ninth as the Twins (67-65) won 4-3 on Tuesday, their 11th victory in 14 games. The win kept Minnesota 3 1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central while dropping Chicago (64-69) - loser of five straight - seven back.
“The reason we’re there is because we’re not worrying about tomorrow and we’re not worrying about yesterday,” Michael Cuddyer(notes), who hit two solo home runs, told the Twins’ official Web site. “Hopefully when it’s all said and done, we can look back and say, ‘That was a heck of a run, heck of a streak.’”
Chicago’s season-long struggles at Minnesota and current road woes are huge factors in its inability to defend its Central title. The White Sox have lost six straight at the Metrodome - where they’re 1-7 overall - and dropped eight of nine on their current 11-game road trip that has cost them 4 1/2 games in the standings since Aug. 23.
“Everybody has to play better and pick it up a notch,” Guillen said. “But a white flag? No.”
Rookie Brian Duensing(notes) (2-1, 4.37 ERA) looks to lead the Twins to their second three-game sweep of the White Sox at home this season. The left-hander has won consecutive starts and was sharp against Texas on Friday, conceding one run and three hits in seven innings of a 3-2 victory.
Duensing made his first major league start against the White Sox on July 29, giving up two runs - both on solo homers - and three hits in five innings. He did not receive a decision in Minnesota’s 3-2 win. Duensing also made his major league debut versus Chicago on April 10, giving up two runs in a three-inning relief stint.
While Mark Buehrle(notes) (11-7, 3.89 ERA) has a perfect game this season, he has been perfectly flawed like the rest of his teammates at the Metrodome this season - going 0-2 while getting tagged for 13 runs and 15 hits in 9 2-3 innings - to fall to 10-9 lifetime there.
The left-hander has gone 0-4 with a 5.77 ERA in seven starts since his perfect game against Tampa Bay on July 23, and his start against the Twins five days later began his current tailspin. Buehrle retired the first 17 batters he faced in that contest before the Twins eventually reached him for five runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 defeat.
“I’m not a big fan of broken-bat, bloop singles,” Buehrle said after losing his fourth straight start at the Metrodome dating to last season. “It just seems like any time at this place you just know it’s going to happen. Because you see today that I made some good pitches and they put them in play and got base hits off them. It’s just frustrating.”
Buehrle, who stifled Minnesota on three runs in 13 1-3 innings in winning two starts at home earlier this year, is 23-15 lifetime against the Twins - his most victories against any opponent.