CHICAGO (AP) _ Dominant since the All-Star break and running away with the AL Central title, the Minnesota Twins can breathe a little easier.
They’ll wait to uncork the champagne, though.
“Cart before the horse,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re not going to mess with that.”
Delmon Young hit his 18th homer, Carl Pavano got his 17th win and the Twins beat the fading Chicago White Sox 8-5 to complete the three-game sweep Thursday night.
Paul Konerko hit a solo shot in the third against Pavano (17-11) after being drilled in the face by a pitch in the first inning that left him with a swollen lip. A.J. Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez also went deep, but the Twins walked away with their 11th win in 12 games.
They went 13-5 against the White Sox this season and lead them by nine in the AL Central with 16 games to play as they try to lock down their sixth division title in 10 years. Their magic number is eight. They’re a major league-leading 42-16 since the All-Star break and are challenging Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees for the best record.
“We’re capable of that. We knew we were and the funny part of it is, I don’t know if you guys remember the stretch going into the All-Star break,” Pavano said, referring to a 3-7 run that left them 3{ games off the lead. “That was the flip side of consistency.”
This looked like it would be an easy win for the Twins after Young capped a three-run fifth with a two-run homer off Mark Buehrle (12-11) that made it 6-2.
Instead, the White Sox answered by sending up nine batters while scoring three in the sixth and chasing Pavano. Even so, they walked away with their seventh loss in nine games.
“I think everybody knew we had to sweep them and not get swept,” Buehrle said. “Obviously they came in and kicked our butt every which way.”
Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez started the sixth with back-to-back homers, only the third time the White Sox have done that this season, and Brent Morel followed with a double to the right-field corner.
Jose Mijares came in for Pavano and Morel got caught in a rundown on a grounder to the left side by Juan Pierre, who reached second on the play and then stole third. Omar Vizquel walked, putting runners on the corners, before Alex Rios drove in Pierre with a force against Matt Guerrier that made it 6-5.
Konerko then walked with the crowd chanting “Paulie! Paulie!” So did Manny Ramirez to load the bases before Carlos Quentin ended the inning with a fly to center.
The White Sox had runners on first and second in the seventh after Brian Fuentes hit Juan Pierre, leading to an animated discussion between manager Ozzie Guillen and plate umpire Jerry Crawford. Both teams had been warned after Buehrle hit Michael Cuddyer with the first pitch of the second inning, but there were no ejections.
It was a rough night for both starters with Buehrle giving up six runs and eight hits in five innings. He has not won since beating Minnesota on Aug. 19.
Pavano wasn’t much better but moved within one win of the career high he set with Florida in 2004, even though he gave up eight hits and five runs in five-plus innings.
There was a big scare in the first when with a runner on and two out, he nailed Konerko with a pitche between the lip and nose.
The White Sox slugger was tended to for several minutes by trainer Herm Schneider before trotting to first as fans shouted “Paulie! Paulie!” Ramirez walked to load the bases before Carlos Quentin popped out to end the inning.
“We all felt terrible about it,” Gardenhire said. “They did what they had to do.”
Buehrle responded by plunking Cuddyer in the left shoulder, and the Twins wound up scoring three in the second.
“When I’m told to do something I try to go out there and do it to the best of my ability,” Buehrle said. “Obviously you got to protect your guys.”
NOTES: The White Sox held 2B Gordon Beckham out of the lineup because of a lingering hand problem, and Guillen said they’ll likely shut him down for a few games. With Beckham out, Omar Vizquel started at second and Brent Morel at third. … The Twins decided to go with Joe Mauer behind the plate rather than Drew Butera, who had caught 12 straight starts by Pavano. … OF Jason Kubel was out of the lineup after he left Wednesday’s game because of soreness in his left wrist.


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