The Minnesota Twins looked in trouble when they lost the first two contests of a four-game road set against the torrid Chicago White Sox.
But suddenly, the Twins (31-20) are in position to salvage a split when the top two teams in the American League Central finish their series on Thursday.
After scoring just three runs while losing the first two games, Minnesota scored all its runs on three homers and received 16 consecutive outs from its bullpen in a 5-1 win over the White Sox on Wednesday.
“A lot of things work out well when you throw strikes and score runs and we did a great job of that,” said Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey, who retired all six hitters he faced.
Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano hit two-run homers and Eddie Rosario hit a solo shot to end Chicago’s six-game winning streak as the Twins crept within two games in the division race. Still, the White Sox have won 22 of their past 28 games.
Chicago (32-17) could clinch a playoff spot with a victory on Thursday. The magic number sits at one as the club looks to be part of the postseason for the first time since 2008.
“Obviously, that’s the first step,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of clinching a spot. “Everybody understands that once any club gets in, anything can happen. So obviously getting in is very, very important, but you still have a lot of things to try to accomplish.
“That’s what the guys are focused on. They’ll be able to manage their emotions with the first step, but there’s still a lot to be done.”
MVP candidate Jose Abreu’s 16th homer accounted for the lone run on Wednesday as Chicago had just two hits. Abreu leads the majors with 49 RBIs.
“That’s our leader. That’s our MVP,” right-hander Lucas Giolito said after taking the loss on Wednesday. “Hopefully, at the end of the year, he’s the MVP across the American League.”
Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda looks to silence Abreu and continue his own stellar season when he takes the mound on Thursday.
The 32-year-old is 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA but it is his WHIP (0.74) and batting average against (.158) that really stand out. Maeda has allowed just 31 hits and 10 walks in 55 2/3 innings while recording 63 strikeouts.
In his last outing, he threw seven innings of four-hit shutout ball to beat the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
Maeda, an offseason free-agent signee, made his Minnesota debut against the White Sox on July 26. He gave up two runs and four hits over five innings while picking up the win.
Maeda is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two career starts against the White Sox. He also beat the club in 2017 when he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
White Sox stars Tim Anderson (five at-bats) and Abreu (four) are both hitless against Maeda. Both are also red hot as Anderson is 13-for-23 with a homer over the past five games while Abreu is 11-for-21 with three homers during the same span.
However, the players were a combined 0-for-4 against Minnesota relievers on Wednesday.
“It was a colossal effort,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of his bullpen. “Every guy we turned to was fantastic.”
Reynaldo Lopez was announced as Chicago’s starter following Wednesday’s setback.
The right-handed Lopez (1-2, 5.52) picked up his first win of the season on Saturday when he pitched five shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers. He allowed three hits and one walk while striking out two.
The stint was the longest of the season for Lopez, who missed nearly four weeks with shoulder soreness earlier in the campaign.
The 26-year-old has allowed seven runs (five earned) and seven hits in 2 1/3 total innings while losing twice to the Twins this season. He has experienced issues throughout his career against Minnesota, compiling a 1-6 record and 6.44 ERA in nine starts.
Jake Cave (two homers) and Nelson Cruz (one) are each 5-for-11 against Lopez. Max Kepler (4-for-20) also has two blasts.
–Field Level Media