Minnesota (76-73) at Chicago (73-77)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL, US
Temp: 37° F
  • Game info: 8:11 pm EDT Mon Sep 21, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Minnesota Twins took a step back Sunday, but they’re still making a strong push toward their first AL Central title since 2006.

The Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, are on the ropes in their bid to repeat as division champs.

Minnesota looks to resume its surge toward the postseason Monday night when it opens a three-game set against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Twins (76-73) had their six-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s 6-2 loss to Detroit, but they gained a game in the standings over the weekend by taking two of three from the AL Central-leading Tigers.

Minnesota now trails Detroit by three games.

“I guess we’ll have to take two out of three and now go on a long road trip,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll see if we can hang in there until we get back to Detroit (on Sept. 28-Oct. 1) and go from there.”

The Twins open their 10-game trip at U.S. Cellular Field, where they have lost four of six this season and 16 of 21 since July 2007.

Probably their most heartbreaking defeat in Chicago during the current stretch was a 1-0 loss last Sept. 30 in a Game 163 tiebreaker. A homer by Jim Thome(notes) and eight solid innings from John Danks(notes) gave the White Sox their first AL Central title since the 2005 World Series championship team.

Nick Blackburn(notes) (10-11, 4.34 ERA) took the loss in that matchup, and will take the mound again Monday.

Blackburn is 1-4 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts at U.S. Cellular, but the win came May 21 in his last outing there. The right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings as the Twins racked up 20 hits in a 20-1 rout, matching the most-lopsided defeat in White Sox history.

Blackburn is 2-7 with a 6.90 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break, but is looking for his fourth consecutive win over the White Sox.

In his last start against Chicago on Aug. 31, Blackburn yielded one run and six hits over seven innings of a 4-1 victory at the Metrodome.

Coupled with Detroit’s victory over Minnesota, the White Sox (73-77) fell another game back in the standings after a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

Chicago has dropped five of seven and trails the Tigers by 6 1/2 games.

“We’re not in a good spot, we’re not where we want to be, but even if we were leading the division by 6 1/2 games it wouldn’t change what we needed to do (Monday) when we come in here,” first baseman Paul Konerko(notes) said.

Gavin Floyd(notes) was originally scheduled to take the mound for Chicago in the series opener, but the right-hander will have his turn skipped due to a sore left hip. In his place, manager Ozzie Guillen will give the ball to 22-year-old right-hander Daniel Hudson(notes) (0-0, 4.76), who will make his first major league start.

“I like his stuff, and I want to see (Hudson) start,” Guillen told the team’s official Web site.

Hudson went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA in the minors this season, and has made three relief appearances in the majors.

White Sox catcher and former Twin A.J. Pierzynski(notes) is batting .222 against the Twins this season, but he’s 10 for 23 lifetime versus Blackburn.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer(notes), the major leagues’ top hitter at .374, is batting .244 in the season series.

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Starting Pitchers

N. Blackburn MIN vs. D. Hudson PIT
11-11 Record 1-1
4.03 ERA 3.38
98 K 14
41 BB 9
1.37 WHIP 1.34