(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Twins can take a big step towards securing their second straight American League Central crown this week as they start a critical three-game series against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Twins, who hold a six-game edge on the second-place White Sox, have had the upper hand in the series this season, winning 10 of the 15 matchups, including wins in seven of the last nine overall meetings and four of the six contested in Chicago.
"It's going to be a fun, fun series," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's what baseball is all about. Guys right behind you and it's September and it's games that mean something. It's what it is all about. That's why you play the game -- to be playing these types of games. They are all that for us because you are trying to win a division. But with Chicago, it's always fun."
Minnesota continued to be one of the hottest teams in baseball over the weekend, as it took two of three from the lowly Cleveland Indians to win for the eighth time in its last nine tries.
"You feel like you have to win every game, no matter whether you're on top or the bottom," said Gardenhire. "That's the way it is in September. Every game you are like, 'Oh my, that's the one that could cost us.' So you try not to lose it, and that's what we do -- is try to win them all."
The Twins secured the series win on Sunday, as Kevin Slowey allowed two unearned runs in five solid innings, and Minnesota used a five-run first inning to win the rubber match, 6-2, at Progressive Field.
Slowey (12-6), making his second start after a stint on the disabled list, allowed six hits while fanning five and walking none for the Twins.
"I was able to make a couple pitches when I needed to, and I was fortunate to have some great plays made behind me," Slowey said. "When they put five runs up early, you don't have to be quite as fine."
Michael Cuddyer had two hits, an RBI and a run scored, as six different players scored and five different players drove in a run for the Twins in the win.
Hoping for that kind of support this evening will be left-hander Francisco Liriano, who has quietly put together a terrific season, going 13-7 with a 3.24 earned run average. Liriano won his seventh straight decision last Tuesday against Kansas City, as he held the Royals to a pair of runs and seven hits in seven innings.
Liriano, who has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last three starts and has pitched to a 2.22 ERA over his 10-game unbeaten streak, was roughed up a bit by the White Sox the last time he faced them. He did not get a decision against Chicago on August 18, but surrendered five runs and six hits in five innings of a 7-6 win. He is 2-3 lifetime against them with a 5.64 ERA in 10 games, seven of which have been starts.
Chicago, meanwhile, will counter with a left-handed 13-game winner of its own in John Danks, who has lost two of his last three starts. Danks absorbed the loss in Detroit on Wednesday, as he allowed five runs (two earned) and eight hits in six innings. He is 13-10 on the year with a 3.54 ERA.
Danks did not get a decision the last time he faced the Twins, despite allowing five runs and 11 hits in seven innings, but is 6-6 in 18 starts against them with a 5.05 ERA.
Chicago took two of three from the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, but comes into tonight's tilt having lost four of its last six games. On Sunday, though, the White Sox pulled out a series win, as Andruw Jones' pinch-hit grand slam capped a six-run sixth inning and led Chicago to a 12-6 victory.
Paul Konerko hit a pair of two-run homers and drove in five in the win for the White Sox.
Sergio Santos (2-0) earned the win after 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. It got starter Lucas Harrell off the hook after he was charged with nine hits and six runs with three walks over 3 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs in the opening inning.
"When you're down 6-0 and you come back to win the game and they don't score a run again, it's kind of that positive momentum you need heading into the next series," Santos said. "Minnesota is on fire now. Hopefully we can keep playing baseball the way we're capable of playing and gain ground."