MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A battery made up of former Twins once traded for one another teamed up to beat their old team Tuesday night.
A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning and the Chicago White Sox held on to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3.
After Alex Rios singled off Jeff Gray (5-1), Pierzynski hit a 0-2 hanging slider into the right field bleachers for his second homer in as many nights after missing five games with a right oblique strain.
“I figure I gave ’em one yesterday, maybe I could try to get one back for us today,” said Pierzynski, whose ninth inning throwing error Monday led to Minnesota’s winning run.
In his first start with the White Sox, Francisco Liriano, who was traded from Minnesota to Chicago late Saturday for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez, allowed two earned runs and four hits in six innings.
“It’s just another game for me. I just tried to go out there and make some good pitches,” he said.
With his fastball regularly in the low-to-mid 90s and his slider and changeup staying away from Minnesota hitters, Liriano walked four and struck out eight, including Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham twice each.
Mauer was caught looking at an inside pitch with two runners in scoring position in the third, leading the All-Star catcher to exchange words with home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski.
“Minnesota got a dose of what we’ve been facing for the last seven years and how hard he is to hit,” said Pierzynski, who was dealt to San Francisco in exchange for Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in November 2003. “It was a good night for him.”
Although the Twins were getting deep in the count, Liriano allowed just two hits through five innings before the Twins got to him for two runs in the sixth.
With one out, Darin Mastroianni hit a dribbler up the first base line and stole second and third. Walks to Mauer and Willingham loaded the bases for Justin Morneau, who hit a chopper to first base. Paul Konerko fielded the ball, but failed to step on the bag for the forceout and his throw home was wide of the plate, allowing Mastroianni to score.
Valencia followed with a single that was stopped by a diving Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, but he could not make a throw. Brian Dozier nearly hit a grand slam the next at-bat, but the ball was caught on the warning track by Dayan Viciedo in left field.
An RBI single by Ramirez scored Pierzynski to tie the game 2-2 in the seventh.
Matt Thornton (3-6) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for the win. Chicago is now 2 1/2 games up on Detroit in the AL Central.
Addison Reed allowed an RBI single to Denard Span in the bottom of the ninth, but still earned his 17th save in 20 chances.
Span, who was openly worried about being traded and expressed relief once the deadline passed, had four hits for the Twins, whose win streak was snapped at four.
“I feel all right now. Ready to go home and relax. It’s been a long 48 hours for me but I know where I’m going to be at, at least for now,” he said.
There was polite applause from the fans when Liriano’s name was announced and the crowd had no reaction when Liriano came out for the bottom of the first.
Liriano came in with a 50-52 record and 4.33 ERA in his career. But so much more was expected of the enigmatic left-hander, who went 12-3 in 2006 as a rookie with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings. However, he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery later that year and has been inconsistent since.
Liriano had a 9.45 ERA in six starts this year before being demoted to the bullpen in early May. After being put back in the rotation out of necessity late that month for the injury-plagued Twins, Liriano allowed three runs or less in eight of 11 starts while showing glimpses of his former dominance — including games with 10 and 15 strikeouts in July.
“He was doing what we got him to do,” said Chicago manager Robin Ventura. “He came out and pitched well even though the circumstances were probably a little odd for him.”
Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn allowed two earned runs and five hits in eight innings. Six days earlier against Chicago, Blackburn allowed eight earned runs on 10 hits over 4 1-3 innings in a losing effort.
It was just the second time in eight starts that Blackburn allowed fewer than four runs.
“That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. “I was finally out there relaxed a little bit, and let the ball move around. Unfortunately, we didn’t pull that one off, but, obviously, I’m pretty pleased with the way everything went for me tonight.”
Rios scored on a sacrifice fly by Viciedo to give Chicago a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
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NOTES: Chicago LHP John Danks is done for the season and is scheduled to have exploratory surgery Monday to find out what is causing his left shoulder strain. … After trading Liriano late Saturday night, the Twins let the non-waiver deadline pass Tuesday afternoon without another deal. GM Terry Ryan said he wasn’t really close, either, but that the inaction didn’t disappoint him. “I’d be more disappointed if we made a bad trade,” said Ryan, who focused his search on starting pitchers. … Minnesota’s Scott Diamond (9-4, 2.88 ERA) is scheduled to face Chicago’s Jake Peavy (8-7, 3.15) in Wednesday’s series finale.
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