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Sox, Desperate For Win, Send Gavin Floyd To Face Twins

(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 separate themselves even further from the White Sox as the division rivals continue a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Twins have had the upper hand in the series this season, having taken 11 of the 16 matchups, including wins in eight of the last 10 overall meetings and five of the seven games contested in Chicago.

That trend continued in the opener of this set on Tuesday, as J.J. Hardy drove in the decisive run in a two-run seventh inning to help Minnesota to a 9-3 victory. Hardy finished with two doubles and scored a run for the Twins, who now lead the White Sox by seven games with 18 to play.

Joe Mauer added three hits to raise his career total to 1,002, while Denard Span drove in four runs for Minnesota. Delmon Young added a homer and scored twice in the victory.

"We've been through this, but on the other side," Span said. "We're not taking anything for granted. We're going to take it one day at a time and take care of what we need to take care of, and that's win the division."

Francisco Liriano (14-7) won his eighth consecutive decision after allowing three runs, six hits and three walks while fanning seven in six innings.

Alexei Ramirez had two hits and two RBI for the White Sox, who have lost five of seven to damage their playoff hopes. John Danks (13-11) lost for the third time in four starts after yielding four runs and nine hits in seven frames.

"We've had our opportunities, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves for where we're at," Danks said. "But we're going to battle. We're not going to lay down."

Getting the call for the Twins tonight will be left-hander Brian Duensing, who is 8-2 with a 2.02 earned run average. Duensing had not earned a decision in his last two starts before getting a win last Wednesday, despite allowing just one earned run in those previous outings. Duensing beat the Kansas City Royals in his latest start, holding them to a run and six hits in eight innings while striking out seven without walking a batter.

Since joining the rotation on July 23, Duensing has gone 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA in nine outings. He is 3-0 in nine games (three starts) with a 2.40 ERA against the White Sox.

Chicago, meanwhile, will counter with righty Gavin Floyd, who has lost two of his last three starts to fall to 10-12 on the year. Floyd was defeated in Detroit on Thursday, as the Tigers battered him for six runs (five earned) and 13 hits in six innings to raise his ERA to 3.91.

Floyd has faced the Twins 12 times and is 4-7 with a 4.93 ERA.