CHICAGO (AP) _ The Minnesota Twins will leave Chicago in first place in the American League Central.
Jason Kubel hit a three-run home run and Francisco Liriano pitched in and out of trouble to help the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 6-1 and take over the top spot in the division on Thursday night.
Orlando Hudson also added a solo homer for the Twins, who took two of three games from their division rivals to move one game ahead. The Twins also finished a 10-game road trip with a 6-4 record.
“It’s a battle,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I don’t expect it any other way. This is the way it’s supposed to be with these two teams. You’re sitting in the dugout trying to figure out what you have to do next and they’re doing the same thing. It’s two good teams getting after each other and that’s why we’re right at the top of our division and we’ll hopefully remain there right until the end and we’ll see what happens.”
The White Sox lost their first series at U.S. Cellular Field since the Indians took two out of three game there on June 4-6.
Liriano (11-7) allowed one run and pitched around seven hits with four strikeouts. He pitched his best when he was in several jams.
The White Sox loaded the bases with no outs for the middle of their order in the fifth, but Liriano still escaped unscathed. Alex Rios hit a comebacker to the pitcher, who threw to Joe Mauer at the plate for the force. Liriano then struck out Paul Konerko on three pitches and finished off the inning by getting Carlos Quentin swinging.
“I felt pretty good. I felt strong. I was hitting my spot on the slider today, especially in the fifth inning. I wanted to make sure it was down,” said Liriano. “I was making some good pitches when I need to. I got myself in trouble and just told myself to calm down and take it one hitter at a time.”
The White Sox threaten again in the sixth. They loaded the bases with one out for the top of their order. Liriano got Juan Pierre to line out to shallow center. Gardenhire went with reliever Matt Guerrier to finish up the inning, who got Alexei Ramirez to hit an infield pop out.
“I was ready to come out. I ran out of gas a little. I pitched pretty good so I wasn’t mad at all. He did what he had to do,” said Liriano.
The White Sox left 12 runners on.
“We missed a lot of opportunities offensively. We got people on base almost every inning and we couldn’t get a base hit. One inning we had bases loaded and the big guys coming to bat and we couldn’t get it done. Obviously we couldn’t get anything done with people on base but we were facing a pretty good pitcher. Liriano’s slider was pretty good and we couldn’t lay off of those good sliders,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (8-9) allowed six runs on 10 hits and was done in on an 0-2 pitch to Kubel. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh with first base open and two outs, Floyd pitched around Mauer, to get to Kubel. Floyd got ahead of Kubel, but on his 125th pitch, Floyd hung a curve that Kubel hit over the left-field wall to give the Twins a 6-1 lead.
“It doesn’t matter who’s (hitting cleanup), Joe isn’t going to get many opportunities if there’s a base open. You try to move a left-hander in there and it wasn’t working too well the first couple times but he finally got a big hit for us late. We have a lot of faith in Kubel. It’s good stuff,” said Gardenhire.
Guillen didn’t contemplate taking Floyd out, despite having a lefty in the bullpen ready.
“Gavin was throwing the ball very good and I gave him the opportunity to finish it up like I do with all of my pitchers, he made a bad pitch, he just hung a breaking ball over the plate,” said Guillen.
With one out in the first, Hudson homered on a 3-2 pitch to center.
Rios singled with two outs in the first inning and Konerko walked. Quentin was hit for the third time in the series to load the bases. Pierzynski followed with a weak roller down third-base line for an infield hit to score Rios.
Michael Cuddyer led off the second inning with a single. With the infield shift on during Jim Thome’s at-bat, Cuddyer stole second and went to third after catcher A.J. Pierzynski’s throw went into center because the shortstop Ramirez didn’t cover second. Cuddyer then scored on Thome’s sacrifice fly.
In the third inning, Hudson and Mauer hit back-to-back singles with one out and advanced to second and third on Floyd’s wild pitch. One out later, during Cuddyer’s at bat, Floyd started his windup to the stopped, resulting in a balk call by home plate umpire Tim Welke to give the Twins a 3-1 lead.
“It was one of those games where you didn’t feel your greatest, but you don’t think about that you just try to go out there and execute pitches,” said Floyd, who came into the game with a 1.19 ERA in his last 12 outings.
NOTES: After the game, the White Sox optioned Dayan Viciedo to Triple-A Charlotte. The White Sox will activate Mark Teahen from the 15-day disabled list before Friday night’s game against the Tigers. He was out with a broken right middle finger since May 30. … White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks came out of the game with back spasms in the ninth. … Twins SS J.J. Hardy was out of the lineup with a sore left wrist. … Before the game, Twins left-handed reliever Jose Mijares was placed on the DL with a sprained left knee.