Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010
Updated 12:01 AM
By Brett Ballantini
The mood was so joyous for Minnesota, romping past the rival Chicago White Sox, you almost expected the division title to be awarded to the Twins right after the game in a quickly-assembled, Bud Selig-free ceremony reminiscent of the Chisoxs clinch of the BP Cup.
Fortunately for the White Sox, nothing was officially decided by Minnesotas 9-3 shellacking on Wednesday. But unofficially, the Chisox collective may be due for some Ambien or Zoloft this wasnt a suitable game for watching, but rather laying down and avoiding.
Were swimming right now against the current, and it keeps raining, White Sox skipper-poet Ozzie Guillen said. We dont have too much time to make up ground. We had to win two out of three, and we didnt do it.
In the back of your mind, you realize if you lose a game, youre in trouble, third baseman Omar Vizquel said.
Just as the frames flipped an evening ago, the second game of the series started off tight four innings of scoreless ball as White Sox starter Gavin Floyd dominated and Twins hurler Brian Duensing wriggled out of early jams (stranding six runners in the first five innings).
But Floyd blinked first, mainly after he tossed a 1-0 spinner that Chisox nemesis Joe Mauer sent hurtling into the right-center seats, a three-run homer that would virtually provide all the runs Minnesota needed on the night.
It was good location but just didnt move a cement mixer, Floyd said. I wanted to throw a slider there, and it just didnt move. It fell right into Mauers bat path.
Gavin was pitching well, Guillen said. One pitch to Mauer changed the game.
When it was mentioned to Floyd that Mauers last two home runs have been off of him, the righty fixed on a self-deprecating smile: Im glad he has a couple of his nine home runs off me. Apparently I need to do something different against him.
Oh, but the Twins provided more. Much, much more.
Minnesota chased its three-run fifth with identical crooked numbers in the sixth and seventh, extending to a 9-2 lead. While Mauer led the way with a 3-for-4 night (and now has 30 hits against the White Sox this season), Denard Span, Jim Thome, Danny Valencia and J.J. Hardy chipped in a pair of hits apiece.
The Twins put balls in play by all means imaginable. Hardy had an RBI single off the third-base bag. Span had a sac bunt that collapsed as if he stabbed the ball in the heart. And Michael Cuddyer recorded a single to pack the sacks that couldnt have been spun down the third-base line any better if it had been kited with string.
One thing about the Twins: They put the ball in play, Guillen said. That helps. They play the right position and go first to third, they hit behind the runner and do a lot of good things.
This year, even when something is going right for us, somehow the Twins find a way, whether its dribblers or hits sneaking down the line, Floyd said. It just seems like everything is going their way. No matter who was pitching for Chicago, they were getting base hits somehow.
Chicagos two-spot came courtesy of a Carlos Quentin bomb in the sixth, his first home run since Aug. 11. In the seventh inning, Alex Rios tapped an infield single to score Alexei Ramirez, who tripled with two down. But obviously, with 12 hits (just one short of Minnys total) and nine runners left on base, Chicago checked any semblance of efficient offense at the door.
Weve been struggling to get hits when we really need them, Vizquel said. We have to take advantage when they give us the space.
We got a few opportunities early in the game, Guillen acknowledged. We hit the ball hard, right at people.
Floyd had only 5 13 innings in him, surrendering nine hits and six earned runs and finishing his 2010 vs. Minnesota at 0-4 with an 8.06 ERA. On the flip side, while it took five Minnesota pitchers to finish the six-run win, Duensing hurled six innings of nine-hit, two-run ball to up his record to 9-2 for the season.
Pregame, Guillen had praised his troops for fighting like champs. While a titlist effort wasnt obvious on Wednesday, the mentor was nonplussed, fully backing his team.
Were not going to give up. Weve got to continue to play, Guillen said. I know its going to be very tough to accomplish what we want to accomplish, but we dont have any choice. Just keep fighting. Go out there and continue to do what were supposed to do and see what happens.
Still, with two losses down and a sweep looming, even the ever-optimistic general knows whats in store without a win tomorrow: Weve been knocked down twice. They only need one more till the fight is over. Weve got to stand up, for good.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.