MINNEAPOLIS – It was everything a battle between the two best teams in a division should be.
For the White Sox, though, it not only wasn’t enough it was crushing.
Jim Thome, who wasn’t needed on the South Side this season because the White Sox needed to go in a different route with their designated-hitter spot, delivered the deciding blow.
His mammoth two-run walk-off home run gave the red-hot Twins not only a 7-6 victory, it put them four games up in the American League Central on the White Sox with 43 games to play.
In the end, it was another day where a depleted bullpen that proved costly. With Bobby Jenks out over the weekend with continued back soreness, J.J. Putz blew late leads Saturday and Sunday against the Tigers. On Tuesday it was Matt Thornton’s turn as Thome crushed an 0-1 pitch 445 feet to right field.
“The bullpen is going to have a rollercoaster here and there,” Thornton said. “We just hit a little rut as a bullpen. We’ve gotten used to winning those games and expect to win. Our bullpen has been able to lock things down pretty good. It’s one of those things where you keep working hard and come to the park with a clear head and keep going after them.”
Jenks will finally return Wednesday, but isn’t expected to be used in key situations until he proves himself. Well, that was the plan anyway. He could end up getting his old job back simply because it couldn’t be any worse that what the team has gone through the last few days.
“I will take that matchup again, [and] maybe Thome will hit a home run again,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He’s hit about 600 home runs. Jim Thome is a home run hitter; he’s a very strong man. He’s been doing it for a lot of years. If [Denard] Span hit that home run in that inning then I would be crying here. But Jim Thome hit it, you go shower and go and get it [tonight].’’
Not to say that it hurt any less that Thome hit it, it just wasn’t as shocking.
“I don’t care if it was Jim, [Joe] Mauer, [Justin] Morneau, [Delmon] Young, [Michael] Cuddyer, [Jason] Kubel or [Nick] Punto; I don’t care who it was,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “You lose a game I don’t care who hits it. It’s never fun. It just happened. We talked about it and [Thornton] seems OK and we have to go get them tomorrow.”
If it’s a game in Minnesota then Pierzynski was bound to have an eventful night. The former Twin was booed lustily, delivered three hits, taunted Twins fans on a number of occasions and even took Young’s jab to the catcher’s mask on a play at the plate. Young was tagged out, one of two Twins runners gunned down at home.
Not only did Young get in that shot, but he hit a home run in the fifth inning to give the Twins a lead and singled leading off the 10th before Thome’s homer.
Pierzynski had words for Young after the play at the plate, while Twins fans gave their player a standing ovation. At least while on the record, Pierzynski took the high road.
“It was play at the plate, things happen and you move on,” he said. “It was his only chance and he did what he thought he needed to do.”
Asked again if he was OK with a play like that, Pierzynski repeated himself.
“He did what he needed to do,” he said.
At this point, the White Sox are just getting pushed around by the Twins. Not only did the Young play seem questionable Tuesday, but the Twins’ Glen Perkins hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch twice in a game last week.
“If anyone has a problem with that, there’s still a way they can resolve their problems,” Guillen said. “That’s not the manager’s job to get in the way. If somebody in the clubhouse don’t like the way he did it, that’s easy. Resolve that problem before he hits the home run or the base hit [in the 10th].
“Managers have to stay away from that. When I was a player if I didn’t like something that happened on the field, it was up to the players to get something done. You can’t say more to do anything about that.’’
By the numbers
9: White Sox defeats to the Twins this season in 13 games. The White Sox also fell to 22-26 in the American League Central. In extra-inning games this season, the White Sox are just 3-7and lost for the 11th time on the last at-bat.
“[I’ll] have a couple of drinks, and come back tomorrow and fight. I don’t take any game home when the uniform comes over my head. There’s nothing you can do about it. One thing about it, they have two huge games to play and if they play the way they did [Tuesday], I will take my chance.’’ –Guillen, on how to recover from Tuesday’s defeat and what needs to be done going forward.
White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd (8-9, 3.70) will look to continue a hot streak that has reached nearly 100 innings. Floyd has a baseball-best 1.70 ERA since June 8, giving up just 17 earned runs over his last 90 innings. He is just 6-3 over that stretch, though, with one of those defeats coming in his last start at Target Field when he gave up one earned run July 16, but was let down by some shaky defense.
Floyd will be opposed by Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.26), who is 2-0 in three starts against the White Sox this season with a 2.79 ERA. They are the only two victories against the White Sox in nine career appearances against them.