Twins starter Kyle Lohse hung around long enough to earn his first victory since July 2, and Punto had three hits and three stolen bases for Minnesota, which has won four of five.
Minnesota prides itself on timely hitting, sound defense and aggressive baserunning—exactly the skills Punto provides. He also made several nice plays at shortstop, and his baserunning is catching the attention of manager Ron Gardenhire.
“He swung the bat good in Oakland. He’s made a few adjustments in his swing and it’s starting to pay off,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve been after him to be aggressive. When he gets on base we’re going to try to run the bases.”
The White Sox, with the best record in the majors, are looking to take the AL Central title from the Twins, who have won the division the last three seasons. Chicago leads by 12 games over Cleveland, while the Twins are 14 games behind.
Chicago has lost three straight overall and 11 of 17 at home.
“We swung the bat pretty good today. I think the first part of the game we just played real lousy. We didn’t play our game, we made mistakes on the bases, we didn’t move the guy over,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
White Sox starter Jose Contreras coasted through the first three innings, but the Twins batted around in the fourth, scoring four runs on four hits.
Punto hit a leadoff single and stole second, then Contreras walked Joe Mauer. After a fielder’s choice, Contreras walked Matthew LeCroy, loading the bases. Ford followed with a two-run single to left, scoring Punto and Justin Morneau, who barely beat Juan Uribe’s relay throw to the plate, making it 2-0.
“I’ve been working with (first base coach) Jerry White on getting better breaks. We’re not putting a lot of runs on the board, so you got to try to take the extra base,” Punto said.
Contreras gave up another single to Michael Ryan, loading the bases again. With two outs, Abernathy, recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Sunday, hit a two-run single. Ford scored from second, sliding around A.J. Pierzynski’s tag at the plate to give the Twins a 4-0 lead.
In the fifth, Geoff Blum and Joe Crede hit back-to-back singles off Lohse. With two outs and runners on second and third, Uribe singled to center, scoring Blum. But Crede was thrown out at the plate by Ford from center.
Lohse (8-11) pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. He was backed by strong defense: Shannon Stewart took a home run away from Paul Konerko in the fourth with a leaping catch at the wall in left.
“We saw a lot of defensive plays by our team out there. We take a lot of pride in that. Shannon made a great play at the wall and (Ford) charged the ball hard and made a perfect throw,” Gardenhire said.
Lohse was winless in his previous seven starts. He snapped his five-game losing streak.
“They have a great bullpen. Once it gets in their hands, they’re pretty stingy,” Konerko said.
Jermaine Dye had a sacrifice fly for Chicago in the sixth.
Contreras (7-7) lasted 6 2-3 innings in another shaky outing. He allowed four runs and eight hits, struck out five and walked two.
The inconsistent right-hander couldn’t follow up an impressive outing in his last start at Yankee Stadium against his former team. Contreras pitched seven-plus shutout innings against New York, earning the victory.
The White Sox placed major league steals leader Scott Podsednik on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained muscle in his left leg. To take Podsednik’s spot, Chicago purchased the contract of outfielder Brian Anderson from Triple-A Charlotte. … Twins RF Jacque Jones was out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive game with a right oblique strain. He is day-to-day. … Before the game, the White Sox played a video tribute on the scoreboard to Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, who died last Thursday and was believed to be the oldest living professional baseball player. He was 103. … White Sox 2B Tadahito Iguchi had the night off.