For the second consecutive game, the long ball did the talking in Chicago last night. After a series opener that featured five home runs, all seven of the runs scored in last night's 4-3 Twins victory came on dingers. While the middle of the Twins' lineup carried the offense on Monday night, it was the bottom of the order coming through big in the second game of the series. Jason Bartlett and Jason "Tiny" Tyner, who combined for six hits including three doubles on Monday night, went a collective 4-for-7 in the 8 and 9 spots in the lineup last night. The big highlight was a three-run homer by Bartlett that broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. Jason Kubel, hitting in the seventh spot in the order, provided a solo home run in the second inning that initially put the Twins on the board. This is the type of production the Twins never got from the bottom of the order when it consisted of Tony Batista, Juan Castro, and a slumping Rondell White.
Johan Santana gave the Twins seven solid innings, surrending home runs to Jim Thome and Joe Crede but shutting down the Sox lineup outside of that. Santana struck out six and walked none. As usual, Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan did their job and made it a seven-inning game, despite a nerve-wracking ninth inning in which Nathan allowed a couple base-runners on a walk and a hit with one out. Just when it looked like an A.J. Pierzynski rip to right field might tie the game (or worse), Michael Cuddyer made a diving catch for the out and Nathan got Alex Cintron to ground out in the next at-bat to end the game.
It was an intense battle, and a crucial series-clinching victory for the Twins who are virtually assured a loss today with the struggling Carlos Silva taking the mound. Let's not forget that the last time Silva and his opponent, Mark Buehrle, faced off, the Twins put up seven runs in the first inning and still managed to lose thanks to Silva's ineptitude.
Since the All-Star break, the Twins have gained eight games on the slumping White Sox, and now entering today's game tied with the Yankees and just one game behind Chicago in the Wild Card standings. It's only July, so it's clearly too early to be making a big deal of this, but the fact that the Twins are within one game of a playoff spot after their horrendous start is just really amazing.