The Minnesota Twins fell even further out of the American League Central race on Friday night, as they were defeated by the Chicago White Sox by a score of 5-3 at Target Field. The game is the first of a three-game weekend set between two teams that are fighting to get back into the division hunt.
With the Twins loss and the Detroit Tigers defeating Kansas City, Minnesota now finds themselves nine games out of first place with just 50 game remaining in their 2011 regular season.
The White Sox got on the board first, courtesy of a fielder's choice by Carlos Quentin that scored Juan Pierre to give Chicago a 1-0 lead, but the Twins struck back in the bottom half of the inning with a three-spot against White Sox starter Mark Buehrle (9-5, 3.04 ERA). Ben Revere reached to start the inning courtesy of an error by Chicago first baseman Adam Dunn, and moved to second on Matt Tolbert's groundout. Joe Mauer then singled to left, allowing Revere to score and tie the game at one. After a flyout by Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel took Buehrle deep to right field for a two-run homer, putting the Twins ahead 3-1.
That's all the offense that the Twins would get for the evening, and the White Sox chipped away at the Minnesota lead. Quentin struck again in the top of the third, as he launched a 431-foot home run to center field off of Nick Blackburn (7-9, 4.58 ERA), a solo shot to cut Minnesota's lead to 3-2. Blackburn had control issues all night long, issuing six walks in his 5.1 innings of work, and that caught up with him in the top of the fifth. With one out, Blackburn walked Dunn. . .who is hitting just .165 on the season. . .and Quentin made the Twins pay for it with his second home run of the night, this one a two-run shot that put the White Sox in front, 4-3.
Chicago tacked on one more run in the top of the eighth inning, after Matt Capps loaded the bases and was relieved by Glen Perkins. Perkins uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Alexei Ramirez to score and give the White Sox an insurance run, putting them ahead 5-3.
The Twins' offense disappeared after the first inning in this one, managing just three hits over the final eight innings of play. Kubel doubled with two out in the ninth to give the Twins a glimmer of hope, but Danny Valencia went down on three strikes to end the game.
The Twins and White Sox will get together again on Saturday night at Target Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM Central time. Minnesota will hope that right-hander Carl Pavano (6-8, 4.90 ERA) can turn around his recent struggles, while the White Sox will counter with right-hander Zach Stewart (0-1, 4.86 ERA).