White Sox in second after losing in 10th
Twins take first when Jenks gives up game-winner in extras
MINNEAPOLIS -- A wild celebration took place near second base at the Metrodome on Thursday night, one the White Sox envisioned happening if they could sweep the Twins at the South Siders' personal House of Horrors.
Instead, it was the Twins jumping around as if they had just won the World Series, following an improbable 7-6 victory in 10 innings, after Minnesota trailed by five runs in the fourth. The Twins (87-72) completed their three-game sweep of the White Sox (86-72), the first such sweep pulled off against Ozzie Guillen's crew since the Cubs did the same at Wrigley Field from June 20-22.
And here are the cold, hard facts produced by another disastrous trip to Minneapolis, leaving the White Sox with a 1-8 mark this season at the Metrodome. The Twins now hold a half-game lead in the American League Central, with a magic number of four to clinch the division. The White Sox magic number stays at five for the third straight day.
All hope is far from lost, though. The White Sox go home for a three-game weekend set against Cleveland and then would play a makeup contest against Detroit, if necessary, on Monday afternoon. If the White Sox and Twins end up deadlocked after Monday, a one-game playoff would take place Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Anywhere but the Metrodome, as far as the White Sox are concerned.
"We have to look at it like we are tied," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who finished 0-for-3 but scored a run. "So, if we win all four, the worst that can happen is we play again on Tuesday. ... We are still alive. We have to find a way to win four games and [get them] on Tuesday."
"Every game is on the line," White Sox reliever Matt Thornton added. "We have to look at it as a must-win situation, whether Minnesota wins or not."
The significance of what's at stake was clearly evident by the yeoman's work turned in by Minnesota closer Joe Nathan (1-2), who hurled two scoreless innings for the victory, and Thornton and White Sox closer Bobby Jenks (3-1), who combined to pitch four innings in relief.
Jenks entered in the eighth, trying for his third straight save of more than one inning in September, and his 16th straight successful save opportunity overall. But with one out, Carlos Gomez, who had four hits and scored three runs, hit a bloop single to right on an 0-2 pitch, and Denard Span's triple three pitches later quickly scored two runs and tied the game at 6.
It was Alexi Casilla's single to center off Jenks with two outs in the 10th that brought home Nick Punto with the game-winner, another spinner into center that fell in front of Brian Anderson. Jenks said he felt physically fine working into his third inning, but was astonished by the way the Twins dinked and dunked the White Sox throughout the three days.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Jenks, who threw 34 pitches but said he would be ready to throw Friday. "How many 15-hoppers can find a hole through the infield, or a fastball in that finds right field somehow? It's frustrating."
"They battled and got us this time," added Thornton, who allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings.
Thursday's fortunes looked as if they would turn out wildly different when the White Sox exploded for six runs in the fourth off Minnesota starter Kevin Slowey. Orlando Cabrera, who spoke to MLB.com four days ago about how the White Sox were not taking charge and waiting for things to happen, especially when the team fell behind, backed up his words with a game-tying home run with one out in the fourth, sparking the uprising.
Paul Konerko's groundout put the White Sox ahead, and Alexei Ramirez drove in a third run with an infield single. Third baseman Brian Buscher fielded the grounder with time to throw out Ramirez, but Buscher couldn't get the ball out of his glove.
Pierzynski was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Juan Uribe's infield single cleared them. The line shot hit off Slowey's right arm, knocking the right-hander from the game, and Slowey threw the ball away, allowing two more to score.
From the fifth inning forward, the White Sox had four baserunners and just two hits.
"We had one good inning all series," Guillen said. "When you have 27 innings and one good one, you won't win too many."
"It's a shame, because we should have put them away early and didn't get it done," Pierzynski added.
Gavin Floyd allowed 11 hits and four runs over 5 2/3 innings, but he stranded nine and looked in line for his 10th victory after a White Sox loss this season. Instead, the White Sox no longer have complete control of their own AL Central fate.
Win all four games, even if the Twins sweep the Royals, and one game decides this season-long fight. It's pretty much what the White Sox expected, although not what they hoped for.
"Keep the same intensity, and look at it like Minnesota will win all their games against Kansas City, so we have to win the rest and Monday," said Konerko of his team, coming back from a 3-7 road trip. "But we can't win all four at once. Start tomorrow with the same intensity we had tonight and good things will happen."
"I'm at a loss for words. I've said pretty much all I can say," an exhausted Pierzynski added. "The bottom line is we have four games left, and we have to win every one."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.