Twins sweep White Sox, move into first place
They raced from the dugout toward Alexi Casilla and tackled their teammate, in celebration of his 10th-inning single that capped a 7-6 comeback victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night and gave Minnesota a half-game lead in the AL Central.
The Twins love to use their speed, and they ran circles around the wilting White Sox while sweeping this three-game series.
“They play their heart out, they show up to play against us this week, and the result was what you saw,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “They never quit.”
The White Sox led 6-1 after a six-run fourth in which Minnesota starter Kevin Slowey was knocked out with a bruised wrist and the Twins made three costly defensive mistakes.
“You think, ‘Oh, boy, there they go.’ But you know what? Not this ballclub,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Twins host the Kansas City Royals three times this weekend to finish their schedule, while the White Sox head home for a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians. If these teams are still within a half-game of each other after play is completed Sunday, Chicago must make up a rainout against the Detroit Tigers on Monday. Then, if they’re tied, the Twins will have to travel to the South Side for a one-game playoff Tuesday to determine the division champion.
Save for that fourth, which Guillen called their only good inning of the series, the White Sox looked beaten all week. Missing Carlos Quentin (wrist) and Joe Crede (back) from their lineup didn’t help, but the rest of their sluggers contributed little.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was defiant.
“It sucks, but we’re still alive,” he said. “Hopefully we go home and win four games and we kick their (butt) on Tuesday. … They found a way to get enough hits and scrape some across. (Stuff) happens.”
Joe Nathan (1-2) pitched two perfect innings for the victory, part of a Minnesota bullpen that totaled 6 1-3 scoreless innings and surrendered only two hits.
“We’re going to give you nine tough innings no matter what. You can never count a team out that has heart like we do,” first baseman Justin Morneau said.
Matt Thornton relieved White Sox starter Gavin Floyd and got four outs on 10 pitches, but Brendan Harris greeted him with a pinch double in the eighth and Guillen summoned Jenks after one out. Gomez made up for a fielding gaffe with four hits and two RBIs, singling in Harris and scoring on Span’s triple off Jenks to tie it at six.
Span repeatedly pumped his fist and screamed toward his dugout, while Jenks walked around behind the mound muttering to himself. His streak of 15 straight saves converted ended.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence. We’ve got a lot of young guys here and … if we keep playing like that, we make the World Series,” said Gomez, who also made a sliding catch to end the ninth.
This was, of course, a delight for the crowd of 43,601, the second-largest in Minnesota this year.
“That was unbelievable. The loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Gardenhire said.
Slowey retired the first 13 batters he faced before Orlando Cabrera homered in the fourth, and the right-hander should have been on the bench long before he was hurt.
Gomez helped seal Wednesday’s 3-2 win with a running catch in center of Pierzynski’s drive for the second out in the ninth, but he overeagerly chased Jim Thome’s one-out fly to the warning track Thursday and—failing to heed Span’s call in right field—collided with his teammate as they both converged on the ball.
Neither player could hear the other above the din, and given the outcome the Twins didn’t seem to mind the aggressive mistake.
“He thought I had a good bead on it. I thought I had a good bead on it. But sometimes too much speed, that’ll happen,” Span said.
Thome got a double, and Paul Konerko followed with an RBI groundout. Alexei Ramirez later hit a low chopper to third baseman Brian Buscher, who charged and bobbled the ball when he tried the glove-to-hand transfer. The ruling was a single, and the Sox led 3-1 before they broke it open on Juan Uribe’s smash that nearly broke Slowey’s wrist. X-rays were negative.
The Twins got two back in the bottom half on a two-out RBI triple by Gomez followed by a bloop double from Span. Gomez hit another triple in the sixth and scored on a sacrifice by Span, cutting the lead to 6-4. Guillen called for Thornton to get Joe Mauer, who’s surging toward his second batting title in three years, to ground into a fielder’s choice.
That was all Gomez needed to see.
“He said, ‘If the bullpen can keep ‘em at six, we’re going to take this thing,”’ Span said, “and he was right.”
Slowey finished 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA over five September appearances. He failed to go at least five innings in five of his 27 starts this season, including the last two. … Guillen on his hopes for support at U.S. Cellular Field this weekend: “I hope they show up like they did here. White Sox fans, they should be proud of this ballclub.” … Mauer drove in the first run with a double that eluded Ken Griffey Jr.’s reach in center field, though a younger version of the 10-time Gold Glove winner probably would’ve caught it.