Then they had to squirm through a nervous ninth inning, holding on after a four-run rally, to beat Minnesota 8-6 Tuesday night and take a two-game lead in the AL Central.
“I was hoping they could make the (final) out and not get another hit or they might tie the game,” Chicago’s Magglio Ordonez said. “The Twins never give up, they fight you and score runs.”
Buehrle (12-13) allowed seven hits and two runs in six innings and improved his career record against the Twins to 10-4—his most wins against any team.
“If we had lost, we’d be tied for first again and the momentum would probably go back to them,” Buehrle said. “They still lost the game. They might get a little confidence knowing they battled back, but we still won.”
“It’s good we didn’t quit, but at the same time those guys are having a lot of fun,” Twins outfielder Dustan Mohr said. “Every time they hit a home run, they stand in the box for 10 seconds and watch it. I’m kind of getting tired of seeing it.”
The Twins made it close. Lew Ford hit an ground-rule double to start the ninth, and Denny Hocking followed with an RBI triple off Jose Paniagua to make it 8-3. Justin Morneau drove in Hocking with a pinch-hit single. Paniagua then walked Corey Koskie one out later before he was removed by manager Jerry Manuel.
Paniagua, who gave up three hits and a walk, walked off the mound and apparently said something to plate umpire Mark Carlson, who then ejected the reliever.
“That kind of action we don’t condone,” Manuel said, adding he would meet with the reliever. Paniagua, who pitched in his first major league game since last September, wouldn’t comment.
Tom Gordon came in and walked Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to make it 8-5. Pinch-hitter Jacque Jones singled in another run before Gordon struck out Michael Cuddyer to end it for his 11th save.
Ordonez’s 27th homer, off Rick Reed, put Chicago up 4-2 in the fifth.
After a disputed call and Buehrle’s pickoff cut off a Twins rally in the sixth, the White Sox scored four in the seventh after two were out and sent a noisy crowd of 27,623 on another half-price admission night into a frenzy.
Minnesota’s Carlos Pulido (0-1) made his first start since Aug. 7, 1994. Pulido appeared in relief three times earlier this year and his eight full seasons between major league appearances is the longest for a pitcher since Satchel Paige went 12 years and three days from 1953-1965.
But he lasted just three innings, giving up three runs in the second.
In the second, Lee singled and, after Paul Konerko walked, stole third. Joe Crede then doubled to make it 1-0, Konerko scored on Sandy Alomar’s sacrifice fly and the White Sox went up 3-0 when Tony Graffanino hit a jam-shot grounder past first for an RBI single.
But the Twins responded in the fourth on singles by Doug Mientkiewicz and Koskie, an RBI double by Hunter and run-scoring grounder by Pierzynski that made it 3-2.
The Twins had a rally underway in the sixth after Koskie opened with a double.
Catcher Sandy Alomar picked up Hunter’s nubber in front of the plate and threw to third where Koskie was called out, although TV replays showed he slid in ahead of the tag.
Third-base coach Al Newman argued with umpire Gerry Davis and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire—ejected by Davis on Monday night—came out briefly.
“Look at the replay and make your own decision,” Koskie said. `I’m pretty sure it will be the same conclusion I have.”
Buehrle then hit Pierzynski with a pitch but picked him off first two pitches later. Cristian Guzman popped out to end the inning.
“I thought it was a good play that might get us out of an inning,” Buehrle said.
Lee’s homer gave him 100 RBIs for the first time in his career. … 2BLuis Rivas missed his third straight game with a sore back.