MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—With Johan Santana and Freddy Garcia in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox put on a pennant-race classic despite the distance between them in the AL Central.
Jacque Jones ended Garcia’s no-hit bid with a home run to lead off the eighth inning, and Santana pitched the Twins past the White Sox 1-0 on Tuesday night.
“When you have a game like that,” Santana said, “you know it’s only going to take one mistake.”
It was Garcia (11-6) who faltered, leaving a 1-2 curveball a little too high for Jones—who smacked it over the wall in center field for his team-leading 18th homer and the Twins’ only hit of the game.
“I didn’t look,” Garcia said. “I knew that it was gone.”
Santana (13-6) gave up three hits and walked one in eight innings, striking out seven in a battle of perhaps Venezuela’s two best pitchers. Santana, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, improved to 6-1 after the All-Star break.
Garcia walked two and struck out three in eight innings to become the first White Sox pitcher to lose a one-hitter since 1983.
The first-place White Sox saw the Twins move within 9 1/2 games of them in the AL Central—with Cleveland in second, seven games out.
“Keep playing like that and it’ll turn. We’re on the right track, I can tell,” said Chicago’s Paul Konerko, providing a positive reflection of his team’s eighth loss in nine games. “It’s still in our hands, and there aren’t many teams in baseball that can say making the playoffs is in their hands.”
Minnesota plays Chicago nine more times this season.
“I knew, coming into this game, that we needed to fight,” Santana said. “Tonight, we did a great job from top to bottom.”
Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 32nd save and extended his scoreless innings streak to 15, striking out the last two batters as the crowd of 33,572 roared.
“Definitely the loudest I’ve heard it in the Metrodome since I’ve been here,” said Nathan, in his second season with the Twins.
Pablo Ozuna stroked a single off Santana’s first pitch and doubled down the left-field line in the third, but that was it until Geoff Blum singled with two outs in the seventh. Ozuna followed with a drive to deep center, but Lew Ford— named the AL’s Player of the Week the day before—caught it on the run before he crashed into the wall.
That wasn’t the only great defense Santana got. Left fielder Shannon Stewart made a running catch of Konerko’s drive in the fourth, colliding with the wall and leaving the game with a strained left shoulder.
And then there was Jones, who is expected to miss the next two games to attend a family funeral.
With center fielder Torii Hunter probably out for the rest of the regular season because of a broken left ankle, Jones is the only one left in Minnesota’s lineup who was a regular on each of the division-winning teams of the past three years.
He’s only batting .254, and has had another up-and-down season. But Jones, who has been bothered by a strained oblique muscle near his right rib cage, is still one of the Twins’ best in the clutch. He has six game-winning hits this year.
“When you get on the field everything goes out the door,” Jones said. “I just have to play. I owe it to these guys and owe it to myself. None of that stuff matters when you cross the line.”
Michael Cuddyer reached second to start the sixth when Ozuna tried to backhand a grounder to third and let it roll under his glove. He moved to third on a groundout, but Garcia stranded him there—finishing the inning when Jermaine Dye jumped to catch Nick Punto’s flyball and hit his left arm hard against the right-field wall.
Dye fell on the warning track, holding his glove up to prove he made the grab, and rolled around in pain for a bit before leaving the field.
Though they lost, the White Sox seemed just as pleased to have participated.
“If you’re a baseball fan, that’s one of the best ones you’ll ever see,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Garcia lost a road start for the first time since May 9, against Tampa Bay. He is 16-3 in his last 22 starts away from home. … Former Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski, now with the White Sox after he was traded to San Francisco before the 2004 season, was booed mildly. Before his second at-bat, one fan along the first-base line yelled, “You’re a bum, A.J.!” Then someone screamed, “We miss you!” seconds later. … Minnesota’s Joe Mauer had his consecutive walk streak ended at five with a groundout in the seventh.