Twins wins series opener with White Sox
CHICAGO—J.J. Hardy hit a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning and Denard Span had a bases clearing double in the eighth and the Minnesota Twins beat the fading Chicago White Sox 9-3 on Tuesday night.
Delmon Young homered and Joe Mauer had three hits for the AL Central-leading Twins, who increased their lead to seven games over the second-place White Sox with 18 games left for both teams.
The White Sox are 5-11 against the Twins this season.
Twins starter Francisco Liriano (14-7) pitched in and out of jams for his eighth straight victory in his last 11 starts. The left-hander allowed three runs and six hits, struck out seven and walked two.
White Sox starter John Danks (13-11) allowed four runs and nine hits.
Trailing 3-2 in the seventh, Young reached after getting hit by a pitch and advanced to second on Danks' wild pitch. One out later, Danny Valencia singled to center, Young was going to be stopped at third but scored after Alex Rios had the ball come out of his glove. Hardy followed with an RBI double off the wall in left-center to score Valencia from first and give the Twins a 4-3 lead.
The White Sox threatened in the seventh. Twins reliever Matt Guerrier was greeted by consecutive singles from Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulled Guerrier for Jesse Crain. Alexei Ramirez moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, then Crain walked Rios to load the bases for Paul Konerko, who was 5 for his last 6 with two home runs. With the White Sox fans on their feet and chanting, "Paulie, Paulie," Crain struck out Konerko then ended the inning by striking out Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez finished the game 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and one walk. He is 3 for 13 in his last four games. In 12 games with the White Sox, Ramirez has not had an extra base hit and has not driven in a run.
The Twins pulled away in the eighth. Jason Kubel had an RBI double off reliever Matt Thornton and Valencia had a bases load walk off reliever J.J. Putz. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Span cleared the bases with a double after Rios misjudged the ball then had the ball knock off his glove and roll to the warning track in center field as the Twins increased its lead to 9-3.
Liriano got into trouble in the fifth, Konerko led off with a single and Liriano walked Ramirez and allowed a single to Carlos Quentin to load the bases. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a double play to score Konerko. With Ramirez at third, Liriano got Vizquel to line out to center to minimize the damage.
In the fourth inning with one out, Konerko split the right-center gap. Span in center and Kubel in right both converged and the ball got in between them as Kubel tried to make a sliding catch. The ball rolled to the wall and Konerko ended up with his first triple of the season. But Liriano rebounded by striking out Manny Ramirez and Quentin.
After the White Sox wasted a scoring opportunity, Young led off the fifth by hitting Danks' first pitch over the wall in left. Young hit Danks' hanging breaking ball for his 17th homer of the season. With two outs, Hardy doubled and Span followed with a single up the middle to score Hardy to make it 2-0.
After Pierzynski got caught looking on a questionable called third strike, Omar Vizquel doubled down the left-field line. Vizquel then stole third and Gordon Beckham walked. Pierre followed with a comebacker to Liriano, who looked back Vizquel to third and threw to first to get Pierre. With a 3-2 count, Alexei Ramirez singled up the middle to score Vizquel and Beckham.
With runners on first and second in the first inning, Liriano struck out Manny Ramirez with a a 97 mph fastball to end the inning.
NOTES: Mauer, 27, collected his 1,000th hit in the first inning. It took him 827 games to accomplish the feat. ... White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said closer Bobby Jenks was unavailable because of a pinched nerve and there is no timetable on his return. He last pitched on Sept. 4, at Boston.