MINNEAPOLIS (AP)— Zach Stewart decided to keep it simple.
In his debut for the White Sox, the 24-year-old was sharp into the seventh inning as the White Sox beat Minnesota 6-1 on Saturday night.
“Pretty much my usual game plan, just go out and try to throw a lot of strikes and attack the zone, and get them out,” he said.
Paul Konerko drove in two runs and Brent Lillibridge added a late two-run homer as the White Sox secured their first series win against the Twins since 2009, and first in Minnesota since 2007 by taking the first two games of the weekend series.
The White Sox will go for the sweep Sunday when Jake Peavy, who was originally slated to start Saturday before the team surprisingly bumped the veteran righty back a day after calling up Stewart, takes the mound.
Stewart (1-1) was told Thursday he’d be called up from Triple-A Charlotte, but the team didn’t announce the move until less than 24 hours before his fourth career major league start.
“I had never seen him throw a ball until about 6:55 p.m. today,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “I wasn’t surprised, but I was very pleased with the results with how he went about it.”
Acquired in a four-player trade from Toronto on July 27, Stewart gave up eight hits over 6 1-3 innings with two strikeouts and a walk.
“He worked quick, he attacked the strike zone,” Twins slugger Jim Thome said. “At times he would go from 89 to 93, 94 a couple of times. He pitched a good ballgame.”
Minnesota starter Carl Pavano surrendered nine hits and two runs — one unearned — over eight innings with five strikeouts. But the Twins’ bats came up mostly empty against Stewart.
Stewart breezed through his first four innings and handled his first challenge in the fifth with great poise. Facing Joe Mauer with runners on second and third with two outs, he struck out the two-time AL batting champion to end the threat.
“A little nervous at first, but usually once the game gets going, it kind of goes away and just back to the same old stuff,” Stewart said.
The Twins were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“You have to be a lot better than that to win in this league and we weren’t very good,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The loss dropped Minnesota 10 games back in the AL Central. Despite the blown chances, they were still within striking distance late in the game.
Chicago clung to a 2-1 lead before breaking it open in the ninth. Alejandro De Aza scored after a wild pitch by Joe Nathan and a throwing error by catcher Drew Butera. Konerko singled in Juan Pierre, and Lillibridge — pinch hitting for the struggling Adam Dunn — sent a 2-0 fastball from Nathan into the left-field stands to send the fans packing.
Chris Sale and Jason Frasor pitched 1 2-3 innings of scoreless relief and Sergio Santos pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
But the story of the game was Stewart.
“Seems like a lot of courage there,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
“It seemed like he liked to be there and take the ball. … Facing a pretty good ballclub and shut them down pretty well.”
The Twins scored their only run in the sixth when Danny Valenica drove in Jason Kubel to make it 2-1 and put runners at the corners with one out. But Delmon Young hit into a double play to get Stewart out of the inning.
Minnesota threatened again in the eighth with Michael Cuddyer on third and a 3-1 count on Kubel. But Sale induced Kubel and Thome into harmless groundouts, and Frasor strike out Valencia
After the game, Guillen said Stewart would remain with the team while he figured out how to organize his starting rotation.
NOTES: Mauer went 0 for 4 and is now 3 for 21 (.143) this season with two outs and runners in scoring position. … Gardenhire said 1B Justin Morneau (neck) felt good after Friday night’s rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester. Morneau played again Saturday night, and is expected to play at least a week at Rochester before the Twins consider activating him. Gardenhire also said he expects to activate INF Alexi Casilla from the DL as soon as he’s eligible in a week. … Alex Rios went 3 for 5 for his first multihit game since July 19. … Matt Tolbert started at SS for Minnesota in place of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who committed two fielding gaffes Friday night. Gardenhire shrugged the move off as simply giving the rookie from Japan a regular break. “Physical errors happen,” Gardenhire said. … The White Sox and Twins wrap up their three-game series on Sunday when Peavy takes the mound against Brian Duensing. Duensing makes his 22nd start of the season for Minnesota, but only his second career start against the White Sox. He’s 8-9 in 2011.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.