The Chicago White Sox, who were in danger of slipping six games back of the AL Central leading MInnesota Twins and with their season on the ropes, were able to salvage game three of their series at Target Field and avoid a sweep with a 11-0 spanking of the Twins.
Twins starter Carl Pavano struggled mightily from the gates, allowing 10 hits and four runs in the first three innings alone. Pavano was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his first two starts vs. the White Sox this season, both coming at Target Field and over his career he was 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA against the southsiders. It just didn't happen for him tonight.
The White Sox badly needed the win and the playing of the Super Mario Bros. theme song to start the game just didn't give Pavano "Luigi" the edge he needed, at least not tonight. It doesn't help that the Twins lineup forgot to bring their lumber to the yard (5 hits), and the White Sox brought a whole forest (21 hits).
Pavano allowed 15 of those hits in just six innings of work, the most surrendered by him this season in one game. He also tied his season-high for runs allowed with seven. He threw 87 pitches, 66 for strikes and didn't walk a batter, so control wasn't the issue. It was just that everything he threw, the White Sox hit.
Mark Buehrle, on the other hand was on his game, just when the White Sox badly needed him to pitch a gem. He lasted seven strong innings while giving up five hits, no runs and had five strikeouts and just one walk. Paul Konerko was the White Sox savior at the plate, matching a career-high with five hits, and also added four RBI. He is second in the AL with 31 home runs.
Had the White Sox lost they may have very well been kissing their season goodbye, instead they still have a little bit of life going forward. With 41 games still left to be played for the White Sox, it is far to early to write them off. But, without a doubt they have to be limping back to Chicago after a 2-4 road trip.
Before the Twins could even make it one time through the order or get their first hit, the White Sox already had 10 hits and four runs on the board. It was an uphill battle that only got worse as the game progressed.
One thing I will say is that Twins fans proved to be loyal tonight. Even though it was a long shot that the Twins would come back, fans stayed and cheered on the team. Good to see from the Minnesota faithful. I mean, they do, after all have the best record in baseball since the break. I'd say they deserve the respect.
Although the Twins took two of three from their divisional rivals this week and the games were a ton of fun to watch, all three starters during this series haven't looked good by any stretch of the imagination. Scott Baker struggled in the first game, Francisco Liriano didn't get it done on Wednesday and Pavano got beat up bad tonight. But all that matters is winning the series.
Buehrle and Konerko were fantastic for the White Sox tonight, that's what star players are supposed to do when their team is sinking fast. Pavano threw batting practice to the White Sox, not much more to say.
So, instead of writing a long and sad story about how the Twins blew their chance to get a sweep for the tenth time this season (only five times in 15 opportunities have they been successful at obtaining a sweep), here's a look at some numbers:
36: Games since the last time the Twins were shutout. It came in a 6-0 defeat on June 27 against the New York Mets.
17: Consecutive scoreless innings Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier have combined for vs. the White Sox this season, allowing just six hits.
9: Sweeps by the Twins in 2009. So far this season they have just five, but have a much better record.
.681: Slugging percentage since the All-Star break prior to Thursday night's game, second most in all of baseball, trailing on Toronto's Jose Bautista's .709 mark.
21: With a win on Thursday night the Twins would have been 21 games over .500. The last time their record was that good was on the final day of the 2006 season when they finished with a 96-66 record.
2004: The last time the Twins had at least a 5.0 game lead this late in the season. It was on October 3, 2004, when they finished that season 9.0 games ahead of second place Chicago. After Thursday night, they are now 4.0 games ahead of the White Sox.
102: Runs scored by the Twins in the first inning this season. It is the most runs scored in any inning this season for the Twins. The next best team, the St. Louis Cardinals, trails them by 22 runs.
18: Joe Mauer went 4-5 Wednesday night and recorded his 18th career four-hit game, which ranks him fourth on the Twins All-Time list. Kirby Puckett (47), Rod Carew (42), and Tony Oliva (28) are ahead of him.
9: Consecutive wins at Target Field prior to Thursday's loss. Their record is now 38-21 at the fabulous confines.
1: Extra-base hits for the Twins on Thursday night, a double by Michael Cuddyer in the fourth inning.
42: Years it took the San Diego Padres to get a four-game sweep over the Chicago Cubs. They finally got it on Thursday. The Padres are now 73-47 and have the best record in the NL. Last season they had just 75 wins.
8: Series the Twins have taken from the White Sox in their last nine meetings, the one being a two-game split.
15: Wins for Carl Pavano this season, tied for second in the AL. It was a terrible outing for him on Thursday, but his numbers still look tremendous overall. It was only his fourth non-quality start in 25 starts this season