(Sports Network) – The Minnesota Twins have a chance to pad their AL Central lead over the Chicago White Sox when the two rivals square off tonight in the opener of a three-game series from Target Field.
Minnesota is three games ahead of Chicago in the division standings and is coming off a three-game home sweep of the Oakland Athletics. The Twins completed the sweep with Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the A’s, as Kevin Slowey threw seven innings of hitless ball before being removed after a high pitch count.
Slowey, who has a case of elbow tendinitis, gave up just three walks and struck out five batters to improve to 11-5 this season. Jon Rauch spoiled the possible no-hit bid by yielding two runs and two hits in just one-third of an inning, but Matt Capps later came on to notch his fourth save in a Minnesota uniform.
“I think more than anything I was letting my defense work behind me,” said Slowey. “We got some double plays out there that always help and some of the plays in the infield were just amazing. I’m not overpowering and today was a day where I didn’t have great control, so I have to rely on those guys.”
Jim Thome hit a three-run homer and Danny Valencia recorded three hits for the Twins, who have won four in a row overall and nine of their last 11 games.
The Twins are undefeated thus far on their nine-game homestand versus the A’s, White Sox and Angels and will hand pitching duties to Scott Baker tonight. Baker is unbeaten over his last four starts (3-0) and is coming off a 12-6 blowout of the White Sox last Tuesday. He was reached for five runs — four earned — and eight hits in six innings.
Baker pushed his season mark to 10-9 with a 4.76 ERA in 23 starts. The righty is 6-3 in 13 career starts against Chicago and 7-3 in 11 trips to the Target Field mound this season.
The White Sox lost the last two portions of a three-game weekend series versus the Detroit Tigers and suffered a 13-8 setback in Sunday’s series finale at U.S. Cellular Field.
Freddy Garcia started for the Pale Hose and did not record a decision, despite giving up five runs and eight hits in five innings of work. J.J. Putz was collared with the defeat and allowed three runs — two earned — in relief. Tony Pena did no better by giving up four runs in just an inning of work.
Paul Konerko clubbed his 29th home run of the season while Andruw Jones went 3-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored for the White Sox, losers in six of their last eight games. Alexei Ramirez ended with two RBI in defeat.
“We battled back, which was nice, but we just couldn’t hold [the Tigers],” Konerko said. “They were swinging the bats well. It was just one of those days where it was almost, but just another loss. We have to regroup and come out ready to play on Tuesday.”
Konerko and company hope that John Danks will be ready for action when he takes the mound on Tuesday. Danks has won five of his past six decisions and tossed eight innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts in last Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Minnesota. The big lefty was able to improve to 12-8 in 23 starts this season and lowered his ERA to 3.19.
Danks is 6-6 in 17 career starts against the Twins and 5-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 10 starts as the guest this season for the Pale Hose, who will also visit Kansas City for three games on their road swing.
Minnesota has won eight of the 12 meetings with Chicago thus far in 2010.