(AP) — The Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins were supposed to compete for the AL Central title, after rough starts for both teams, the White Sox have been able to climb up the standings, but it’s not the same case with the Twins.
Minnesota still sits at the bottom of the AL despite their recent surge, but a three-game home series against the White Sox beginning Tuesday night could help them cut further into their deficit in the Central Division.
Minnesota (26-39) has won 12 of 14 against Chicago, taking two games at U.S. Cellular Field last month – including Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter May 3.
The Twins have made up ground in the weak AL Central by winning nine of 11 overall, including three of four at home against AL West-leading Texas over the weekend.
On Sunday, Liriano didn’t allow a hit through seven innings, but after sitting for nearly a half-hour while Minnesota scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh, he gave up a single to Adrian Beltre to lead off the eighth. Minnesota still won 6-1.
Twins starters are 7-2 with a 2.09 ERA over the last 11 games. Through June 1, Minnesota’s rotation was 13-24 with a 4.58 ERA.
“It’s on our pitchers’ shoulders,” manager Ron Gardenhire said, “and they’re getting it done.”
Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.54 ERA) hopes to continue that trend. The right-hander allowed one run in seven innings of the Twins’ 3-2, 10-inning win over Cleveland on Wednesday after pitching a complete game in a 5-2 win at Kansas City his previous time out.
Minnesota has a good chance to extend its success against the White Sox, who have encountered major problems in Minneapolis. Chicago has lost 22 of its last 28 road games in the series, going 3-6 at Target Field in 2010.
The White Sox (33-35), though, have also turned things around by winning nine of 13 overall. They finished a 10-game homestand by taking three of four against Oakland, winning 5-4 Sunday behind Adam Dunn’s three-run home run.
Dunn’s homer was his second of the series and 361st of his career – tying him with Joe DiMaggio. Although he has just seven homers this year while hitting an MLB-worst .180, Chicago remains confident he can produce.
“When Dunn makes good contact, that ball always has a good chance to leave the park,” manager Ozzie Guillen told the club’s official website. “A very good chance. That’s what we got him for.”
Paul Konerko extended his hitting streak to 13 games Sunday with two singles. He’s batting .460 during the run with six homers, six doubles and 15 RBIs.
While Konerko’s teammates have struggled in Minnesota, he’s batting .429 with four homers in his last 10 games there, including a 5-for-5 performance in an 11-0 win Aug. 19.
He’s also had good success against Pavano, going 11 for 29 (.379) with three homers lifetime in the matchup.
Pavano went 3-1 against the White Sox last year, but he allowed 12 runs over 11 innings in the last two games, including a career-worst 15 hits in the Aug. 19 rout.
Gavin Floyd (6-5, 3.89) will take the ball for Chicago. The right-hander has lost five straight starts to the Twins, posting a 9.87 ERA in the last three.
However, Floyd won’t have to face Joe Mauer (hitting .389 against him), Denard Span (.500) or Jason Kubel (.316), with all three on the disabled list.
Justin Morneau could be back in the lineup Tuesday after missing the last three games with a sore left wrist.
Michael Cuddyer went 7 for 11 with two homers and eight RBIs in the series against the Rangers and is batting .411 during a 14-game hitting streak against the White Sox.
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