The Minnesota Twins arrived in Chicago looking to bury the White Sox in the AL Central race.
With emphatic victories in the first two games, the Twins have essentially squashed Chicago’s playoff aspirations.
In their final meeting of the season, Minnesota looks to sweep the fading White Sox and move closer to attaining baseball’s best record Thursday night.
Chicago (79-66) knew it would probably need to sweep this series from the Twins for it to have any chance of winning the Central, but Minnesota (87-58) has won the first two games by 9-3 scores to increase its lead to eight games and cut the magic number to clinch the division to 10.
“We were really looking forward to making a move in this series and we find ourselves against the wall right now with two games down,” infielder Omar Vizquel(notes) said. “There is still some games left but as long we keep losing against the first-place team I don’t think we will be making any moves.”
The White Sox, losers of six of eight, have had chances in the first two games but are 4 for 24 with runners in scoring position while Minnesota is 9 for 20.
The Twins, who have won 10 of 11, are a major league-best 41-16 since the All-Star break and trail AL East-leading Tampa Bay by one game for baseball’s best record.
Joe Mauer(notes) again frustrated the White Sox on Wednesday, finishing with three hits - including a three-run homer. Mauer is 15 for 27 with four doubles and seven RBIs in eight games at U.S. Cellular this year, and he’s batting .455 with nine doubles and 15 RBIs as the Twins have gone 12-5 against the White Sox.
“I like hitting here,” said Mauer, who also had three hits in the opener. “I don’t know what it is. It’s a great place to hit.”
Buehrle (12-10, 3.99 ERA) didn’t receive a decision after allowing three runs in seven innings in Friday’s 4-3 win over Kansas City. The White Sox have won each of Buehrle’s last three starts and are 16-5 with him on the mound since May 21.
Buehrle limited the Twins to five hits in seven innings of an 11-0 victory in Minnesota on Aug. 19. The left-hander is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in his last 11 home starts against the Twins.
Minnesota counters with Carl Pavano(notes) (16-11, 3.47), who allowed two runs and six hits in a complete-game 2-0 loss to Cleveland on Friday. The right-hander, who was bothered by a stiff neck, is 1-4 with a 4.38 ERA in his last five starts.
That stretch started when he opposed Buehrle at Target Field last month and was knocked around for seven runs and a career-worst 15 hits over six innings in a losing effort.
Konerko, 8 for 14 with three home runs in his last four games, is batting .394 with four homers and 12 RBIs against the Twins this year.