Twins use power to seize first place from Sox

Twins use power to seize first place from Sox
August 11, 2010, 3:04 am
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Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010
Updated 11:48 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago White Sox outfitted their big-game hunter, 10-win fifth starter Freddy Garcia, on Tuesday night in facing a Minnesota Twins club thats been nipping at their heels and prepping to pounce.

And indeed like a leopard leaping out of the bush, the Twins sacked the doe-eyed prey otherwise known as the White Sox with a 12-6 romp through U.S. Cellular Field.

That was a good, old-fashioned, butt-whipping, said left fielder Juan Pierre, who saw his hitting streak snapped at 16 games with an 0-for-3 night that included the indignity of being picked off at first base by Twins starter Scott Baker. They just kept coming and coming.

A very, very bad game, said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of his clubs effort. The skipper mentioned that he was so bored during the contest that he started reading factoids on the scoreboard, such as Minnesotas 29-16 now 30-16 record against the Central Division.

Big Game Freddy failed to show, retiring just seven batters in the tipoff to a dog-days set that will help determine the AL Central champion. Garcia is now 5-9 with a 5.65 ERA in 21 starts in August over the past seven seasons.

They beat us, no excuses, said Ramon Castro, who started the season as Garcias catching valet but has blossomed into an offensive force with a .935 OPS in spot play. It was just one of those days where nothing worked for us. It wasnt just Freddy, it was Tony Pena, Scott Linebrink. They were swinging and hitting everything.

In addition to furthering their routine dominance over the Chisox (7-3 on the season so far) in a most direct and gruesome, heart-ripped-from-chest fashion, the Twins seized back first place after 37 days bounced from their customary position atop the division.

A pair of doubles by Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer broke the ice for Minny in the first, followed by a second-inning eruption for four runs, paced by homers from Jim Thome, J.J. Hardy and Mauer.

The White Sox, having succeeded in luring the white-hot Twins into a five-run trap just nine outs into the game, struck back with a three-run blast by Carlos Quentin in the second. With eight runs scored in just the first 10 outs of the contest, the 16-inch softball game was officially on.

One problem for Chicago: It was Minnesota that continued mashing, as the White Sox would get no closer than that 5-3 deficit. Twins leadoff man Denard Span would bat in each of the first three innings and Minnesota would lead 8-3 after four, failing to score in only the fifth, seventh and ninth innings.

For Guillen, it was a meaty, two-out, 0-2 fastball Pena delivered to Michael Cuddyer that was abused for a double that marked a turning point in the game. (The White Sox, trailing a relatively modest 6-3, had just walked Jason Kubel intentionally to set up an easy force play with runners on first and second.)

And the Kubel-Cuddyer combo also menaced Chicago just two innings later, again with two outs, Kubel drawing an easy, five-pitch walk and Cuddyer smashing a first-pitch slider, sporting a distinct absence of slide, some 400 feet into the seats. Even at 8-3 after the fourth, Guillen believed his team could come back. But after Cuddyer crushed that second ball, to come back from a seven-run deficit is just too much.

Again its left to Paul Konerko, as team captain filling the role of lukewarm water alongside a boiling pot like Guillen, to keep some perspective on a loss that will drive overreactions in many fans, and even some dour, Schadenfreudist baseball writers in town.

I dont give falling out of first much thought, Konerko said. That only matters at the end of the year, and theres still a long way to go.

Still, there is urgency in the White Sox clubhouse. Pierre noted that Chicago started the second half on a high note in Minnesota with a win, then dropped three straight to the Twins in increasingly tragic fashion.

Weve got to reverse the trend tomorrow, said the speedster. I dont care if its 1-0. We just gotta get em.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.