Eight. Ten. Seventeen.
While the Twins won 9-3 on Tuesday, it was close until the late innings. This one blew open quickly.
Minnesota and Chicago once again traded zeros through the first four innings, thanks to Danny Valencia getting a force out at home in the second and Jason Kubel smashing the ball right to somebody with the bases loaded in the third. Other than those two moments early in the game, neither team had another threat. Until, just like Tuesday, the fifth inning.
With two away in the fifth, Denard Span and Orlando Hudson reached on back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners for Joe Mauer. After an unconventional first-pitch curve that missed, Gavin Floyd fed Mauer an 86-mph meatball. And Mauer destroyed it.
Joe's ninth home run of the season was a line drive that got to the seats in a hurry. It put the Twins on top 3-0, and they never looked back.
Brian Duensing worked around a one-out double in the bottom half of the inning, giving his offense a chance to add to their lead. A hit-by-pitch, single, sacrifice fly, a Valencia double and two singles later, the Twins had tacked on another three runs. Chicago would get two off Duensing when Carlos Quentin went deep in the bottom half of the sixth, but the fight was already over. The first five Twins would reach base in the seventh, and if A.J. Pierzynski hadn't been so heads up and not picked Delmon Young off first, Minnesota might have scored more than three in the seventh as well.
The Twins had their bounces: a ball that wouldn't go foul, a funny hop at third base...things that, when they happen to your team, are infuriating because they're just "one of those things" but they all seem to come at once. But at the same time, they weren't errors, of which the Twins had a pair. Both squads had bad breaks in this game, and both teams had times where hard-hit balls were smashed right to somebody, but the difference is this: the Twins were able to cash in on their opportunities. The White Sox weren't able to.
A win on Thursday constitutes an official knock out. Chicago would still have a ten-count to pull themselves up off the floor, but they won't. Win today, boys. This division is ours.
Notes, studs and duds after the jump.
- The Twins were 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. The White Sox? 2-for-13.
- Gavin Floyd has been owned by the Twins this season, now having given up more runs than innings pitched.
- Duensing struck out four and walked one over six innings, surrendering two runs on nine hits. Yeah...he's your number three starter for the playoffs.
- Mauer had three more hits in this game. He's now batting .330.
- Nick Punto made an appearance, pinch hitting and playing second base for Hudson. It's his first game since August 19, and just his second since July 28. Injuries aren't fun.
- Jason Kubel, the only Twin who didn't get credit for reaching base, is out for the finale with a sore wrist.
- Get used to this: Minnesota Twins, 2010 American League Central Division Champions.