The Minnesota Twins have typically been a thorn in the Chicago White Sox's side, but not this year.
Back in sole possession of first place in the AL Central, the White Sox look to win their seventh straight at home over the Twins on Tuesday night.
Prior to this season, Chicago hadn't posted a winning season record against Minnesota since 2005, but a 4-2 victory Monday improved the White Sox to 10-3 against their division rival with five games remaining.
The last two series between the clubs have come at opportune times.
Chicago (73-61) began the week tied with Detroit for first place in the Central after the Tigers completed a three-game sweep Sunday.
However, converted closer Hector Santiago won his first major league start Monday and was backed by Gordon Beckham's two-run homer as the White Sox snapped a four-game skid.
"I knew what today meant and I knew today was a big game especially after (Sunday's) game was over and we lost," said Santiago. "I knew I had to come out and be ready and give ourselves a chance to win."
The White Sox's previous series against the AL-worst Twins (55-80) also came at a good time. They had been swept in a three-game set at Comerica Park from July 20-22 to fall into second place in the division, but returned home and took all three from Minnesota to regain the Central lead.
Although Chicago won its season-best eighth straight at home, it still struggled with men in scoring position. It was 2 for 32 before Paul Konerko's two-out, RBI single in the seventh.
Konerko continued to deliver against the Twins, extending his hitting streak in the series to 11 games dating to last year. He is 16 for 26 (.615) with four homers, two doubles and 10 RBIs in seven games against them at U.S. Cellular Field this year.
The veteran first baseman, however, is 0 for 3 lifetime against Tuesday's scheduled starter Scott Diamond (10-6, 3.21 ERA), who is winless in his last four starts - all Minnesota losses. The left-hander gave up five runs over seven innings of a 5-2 defeat to Seattle last Tuesday.
"That's been my goal every game, to try to go as deep as I can, at least seven,'' Diamond said. "Even though the outcome wasn't so great, I've got to take it as a positive.''
Going deep against the White Sox hasn't been a problem, but picking up wins has been. Diamond is 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA in two starts spanning 13 1-3 innings against them this year, but was provided with two runs of support.
He'll try to help Minnesota avoid a 12th loss in 16 road games and the Twins have had little trouble against Chicago's Jose Quintana (5-3, 3.17).
The rookie left-hander has allowed 10 runs - eight earned - and 18 hits over 13 1-3 innings in two starts against the Twins, escaping without any decisions.
Quintana had one of his worst outings of the season Thursday at Baltimore, yielding five runs and seven hits - including two homers - over 3 2-3 innings of a 5-3 loss.
He has been much better at home, where he has a 2.64 ERA in eight appearances - seven starts - as opposed to a 3.55 mark in 11 road games.
Josh Willingham, who went 0 for 4 Monday after missing the previous game with a sore hamstring, is 4 for 5 with two homers against Quintana.
- Chicago White Sox
- The Minnesota Twins