MINNEAPOLIS » Ozzie Guillen has made no secret of his admiration for the Minnesota Twins over the years.
The outspoken Chicago White Sox manager loves how the Twins have done all the little things right, relying on pitching, defense and fundamentals to wear opponents down en route to five division titles this decade.
Seven years into his tenure, Guillen finally has his team playing like those pesky Twins of old, and to fantastic results.
Gordon Beckham had a home run and two RBIs and John Danks recovered from his worst inning of the season to help the White Sox win their ninth game in a row, 8-7 over the Twins.
Danks (9-7) gave up six runs on six hits in the second inning, but only allowed three hits in his other five scoreless innings and the White Sox did all the little things right to push the slumping Twins 4 1/2 games behind them in the AL Central.
"We’ve been playing good baseball," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a former Twin. "We’ve been catching the ball, we’ve been pitching, just doing things right. We’ve kind of been playing Twins baseball. Just catching the ball and throwing strikes and doing what we need to do to win."
Bobby Jenks picked up his 20th save in 21 chances. He struck out Orlando Hudson with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, then gave up an RBI single to Delmon Young in the ninth before getting Jim Thome looking to end the game.
Chicago perfectly executed four hit-and-runs, bunted runners over and played superb defense for their 26th win in the last 31 games.
"When you’re up against those guys you try to shut them down as quick as you can," Guillen said. "That’s the only way to beat them. We all know how they play the game. We all know how they don’t give up."
The Twins lost for the seventh time in nine games and suffered through another terrible outing by their starting pitcher. Kevin Slowey was tagged for five runs on nine hits in three innings and Alex Burnett (1-2) gave up three more runs in relief.
"It wasn’t a very good performance," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Slowey. "He didn’t get the ball where he wanted to. He was up in the zone."
Juan Pierre had three hits and an RBI and Alex Rios added two hits and two RBIs for the White Sox.
Joe Mauer had three hits and three RBIs and J.J. Hardy chipped in two hits and an RBI for Minnesota.
These two teams were headed in opposite directions going into the break, with the White Sox going 25-5 to take a half-game lead in the division. It’s been a startling turnaround for a team that was 24-33 and 9 1/2 games down on June 8.
The White Sox scratched their way to a 4-0 lead early thanks to three sacrifice flies and Beckham’s solo homer that reached the second deck in left field.
"I’ve been struggling and searching for it a lot more than I’ve been comfortable out there lately," Slowey said.
The Twins responded in the bottom of the second inning, scoring six runs on six hits, including Joe Mauer’s bases-loaded double down the third baseline that gave them a 6-4 lead.
But Danks settled down after that, facing just one more batter than the minimum while the White Sox climbed back into the game. Beckham had an RBI single in the fourth and Pierzynski’s two-run double highlighted Chicago’s three-run fifth inning to put them back in the lead.
In a role reversal, it was the Twins this time who committed the blunders to let the game slip away to the smarter, sharper White Sox.
Denard Span popped up a bunt attempt to Danks in the fourth and Burnett balked home the tying run in the fifth when he never let his pitch to Mark Kotsay go.
The Twins have just six wins in their last 20 games and will play this entire series without All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau, who was placed on the disabled list with a concussion.
The biggest concern, though, is the starting pitchers, including Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker, who have all been wildly inconsistent this year.
"It’s the same group that took us a long way last year and we won a division with them," Gardenhire said. "Our job is to get them right as much as we can. If it doesn’t work out, we have to make a decision and make a move."