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Mauer's Big Night Leads Twins Past White Sox 7-6

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Jim Thome scored the go-ahead run on Danny Valencia’s infield hit during a three-run sixth inning, boosting the Twins over the White Sox, 7-6, as Minnesota increased its lead to a season-high five games over Chicago in the AL Central.

Joe Mauer had four hits and finished a triple shy of the cycle, while Michael Cuddyer ended 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Twins, who won their ninth straight at Target Field and moved a season-high 20 games over .500 (70-50).

Denard Span had a pair of hits and scored twice, as Minnesota captured its sixth in a row overall.

Andruw Jones belted a three-run homer for Chicago, which lost its fourth straight game. Gordon Beckham doubled off Matt Capps with one out in the ninth inning and scored on Juan Pierre’s base hit. Alexei Ramirez was retired on a ground ball and Alex Rios’ game-ending grounder was captured by first baseman Cuddyer, who flipped to Capps for the final out.

“I’ve been battling against myself and some things didn’t feel that good out there the last couple of times,” Capps said. “To get through it and get through the inning without another run scoring, it’s pretty satisfying.”

Facing a 5-4 deficit entering the sixth, the Twins had four straight batters reach base against Chicago starter Gavin Floyd. Cuddyer hit a ground-rule double to left. Thome, the hero of Tuesday’s 7-6 win in 10 innings with a two- run homer, then walked. Delmon Young tied the game with a double to the left field corner.

Valencia then hit a ball up the middle. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez cut the ball off, but instead of taking the momentum and going to first, he threw across his body, off-balance to the plate. The soft throw was off the mark as Thome scored easily. J.J. Hardy followed wit a sacrifice fly when left fielder Juan Pierre banged into the wall.

Francisco Liriano allowed six hits and five runs over five innings in the start for the Twins. Jeff Manship (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 frames for the win, while Capps notched his fifth save.

Gavin Floyd (8-10) was saddled with the loss after permitting 10 hits and seven runs over 5 1/3 frames.

“Hopefully we win tomorrow and change the scenario a little bit,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “In the meanwhile, hopefully this thing goes all the way to the end.”

Mauer doubled in Span in the first and scored on Cuddyer’s base hit, but Jones connected over the wall in left-center, a 436-foot blast, in the second after Carlos Quentin and A.J. Pierzynski each walked.

Span scored on Jason Kubel’s base hit in the third, but the White Sox went ahead 5-3 in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from Rios and an RBI fielder’s choice from Pierzynski.

Mauer then hit his eighth homer of the season, but first at Target Field, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.

Game Notes

Pierre ended 4-for-5…The last time the Twins had at least a five-game lead in the division this late in the season, was October 3, 2004, when they finished that season nine games ahead of second place Chicago…This is the most games over .500 for the Twins since they reached the same mark on August 23, 2008…The three-game series wraps up Thursday night with a pitching matchup of Mark Buehrle (11-9, 4.05) taking the mound for Chicago and Carl Pavano (15-7, 3.27) for Minnesota, which holds a 10-4 lead in the season series…Jones’ homer snapped a string of 96 1/3 straight innings by Liriano not allowing a long ball.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.