CHICAGO » Jim Thome figured the Minnesota Twins would fight the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central championship. If they keep hitting like this, they’ll get the knockout.
Thome knocked his 579th homer, Joe Mauer had three more hits and the Twins took sole possession of the AL Central lead by beating the White Sox 12-6 last night.
"We knew coming into this season, they were going to have a very good ballclub," said Thome, who spent nearly four years with the White Sox before getting dealt to the Dodgers late last season. "In our division, when you look at it, when you play the White Sox you’ve got to bear down. They’ve got a good club, good pitching, good bullpen."
For the Twins, it was a good start to a showcase series between the top two teams in the division. Now, they’re alone atop the Central for the first time since July 2.
For the White Sox?
"It was a very, very bad game from the beginning," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The Twins pounded out five homers, starting with Thome’s drive to left-center on the first pitch of the second to kick off a four-run burst against his former team that made it 5-0.
J.J. Hardy and Mauer each went deep against Freddy Garcia (10-5) in the inning, and the Twins pulled away after Chicago’s Carlos Quentin hit a three-run shot off Scott Baker (10-9) in the bottom half.
Mauer now has 25 hits in 46 at-bats after going 3-for-5, and Minnesota pounded out 14 in all while winning for the fifth time in six games.
"We see stretches like this all the time with him, where he’s just on every ball and getting big hits," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I’d say it amazes me, but I don’t know about that anymore."
Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer each added two-run homers.
It was another difficult night for the White Sox, who managed just 10 runs while dropping three of four at Baltimore and falling into a first-place tie.
The teams will play another three-game set at Target Field next week, and the odds that these series would showcase the top two teams in the division seemed slim not too long ago.
"They’re playing well right now," Paul Konerko said. "We’re playing OK. We’re not bad, we’re not good, we’re just right in the middle."