(Sports Network) – The Minnesota Twins are closing in on their second straight American League Central crown, and their play against the Chicago White Sox has been a big reason why. Tonight the Twins will try to get their magic number to single digits, as they attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Twins have had the upper hand in the series this season, having taken 12 of the 17 matchups, including wins in nine of the last 11 overall meetings and six of the eight games contested in Chicago.
That trend continued on Wednesday when Minnesota upped its advantage to eight games in the division and lowered its magic number to 10, as Joe Mauer’s three-run homer started a string of three consecutive three-run innings, and lifted the Twins to a 9-3 win.
Mauer went 3-for-4 and scored twice for the Twins, who have won 11 of 13 in September to take a stranglehold on the division. Minnesota is also a major league-best 41-16 since the All-Star break.
Jim Thome added two hits and two RBI, while Denard Span, Danny Valencia and J.J. Hardy each finished with two hits and an RBI. Brian Duensing (9-2) yielded just two runs on nine hits and a walk in six frames to earn the win.
Carlos Quentin hit a two-run homer for the White Sox, who have lost six of eight. Gavin Floyd (10-13) fell to 0-4 with an 8.06 ERA against the Twins this year after allowing six runs, nine hits and two walks in 5 1/3 frames.
“It seems like everything is going their way…They just find a way,” Floyd said of the Twins.
Hoping to complete the sweep tonight for the Twins will be right-hander Carl Pavano, who will be trying to win 17 games for only the second time in his career and first time since winning a career-best 18 in 2004 while with Florida.
Pavano, though, has lost four of his last five starts and absorbed the loss on Friday in Cleveland, despite allowing two runs and six hits in eight innings. He is 16-11 on the year with a 3.47 ERA.
Dogged by injuries and inconsistencies for most of his career, Pavano has been extremely durable for the Twins this year, pitching six or more innings in 26 of his 29 starts and seven or more in 20 of 29. He’s also managed quality starts in 20 of his 29 outings.
Pavano is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA against the White Sox this year and 5-3 with a 3.49 ERA against Chicago in eight career starts.
The White Sox, meanwhile, will counter with lefty Mark Buehrle, who has dominated the Twins over the course of his career, going 25-17 with a 3.98 ERA in 46 games, 44 of which have been starts.
Buehrle’s last win came against the Twins back on August 19, when he scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings. He is 0-1 in four starts since and is 12-10 on the year with a 3.99 ERA.