When A.J. Pierzynski crossed the plate on Alexei Ramirez's game-tying single in the seventh inning, he had some words of encouragement for Gordon Beckham regarding Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn:
Beckham couldn't drive in the go-ahead run, so Pierzynski took it upon himself off a different ... pitcher. Facing short-time former teammate Jeff Gray, Pierzynski turned on an 0-2 pitch and cranked a no-doubt shot into the high seats in right field, giving the White Sox a 4-2 lead.
The Twins had some problems with 0-2 counts. Pierzynski's homer was a two-run shot because Alex Rios singled on an 0-2 pitch to start the inning. And Pierzynski was able to score the go-ahead run in the seventh because Blackburn hit him in the shoulder after getting ahead 0-2 (it was a 1-2 pitch).
That insurance run proved necessary. Addison Reed scared his way to another save, allowing the leadoff batter to reach and score, and bringing Joe Mauer to the plate as the last batter. Reed got Mauer to hit a grounder to first, but Paul Konerko played a hop off his chest, turned his ankle trying to corral it, and ended up making an awkward flip to first that probably should have caught Reed off-guard. Reed somehow made a barehanded catch while stepping on first, and the ballgame was thankfully ovah.
It wasn't a pretty win. Blackburn entered the game with a 7.99 ERA, but he held the Sox in check over eight innings. The two runs they scored didn't come easy.
Rios reached on a one-out double in the second inning, but he misjudged Pierzynski's smoked drive to right and held up at second while the ball went well over the head of Darin Mastroianni. Pierzynski ended up with a wall single, Rios only made it to third, and that put pressure on Dayan Viciedo to avoid the double play. He came through with a well-struck sac fly to right for a 1-0 lead.
Pierzynski and Viciedo would come through again in the seventh. After Pierzynski reached on the HBP with two outs, Viciedo shot a single through the middle to put Pierzynski in scoring position. Alexei Ramirez then hit a bloop single to left, and with two outs, Pierzynski was able to score standing.
Then again, the Twins' two runs would be even harder to replicate. Their longtime former teammate Francisco Liriano held them scoreless through five, but some classic Twins Baseball got them on the board. Mastroianni reached on an infield single that spun off the end of his bat and died between the pitcher's mound and first base. A pair of walks loaded the bases for Justin Morneau.
Morneau hit a grounder to first, and Konerko made the classic Little League mistake of not knowing what he was going to do before the play. He was playing back, and when he fielded Morneau's chopper, his first instinct was to take the out at first. Then he thought he had a play at home, so after taking a step towards first, he angled his body for a throw home. Then he thought he might not have a shot after all, because his back foot kinda reached for first as he went to throw, which would have taken the force play off.
He didn't touch the bag. He threw wide of home. A run crossed the plate. No out was recorded. And Konerko didn't get an error for any of it.
Liriano got Ryan Doumit to pop up for the second out, but Josh Willingham hit a grounder too far in the hole on the left side. Ramirez made a nice diving stop, but he didn't have a play at any of the bases, and the Twins took a 2-1 lead. He did save a run, and that turned out to be huge.
Aside from the sixth inning, which was bad luck and a lapse in control, Liriano looked fine. He struck out eight over six innings, allowing the two runs on four hits and four walks. He was inefficient in the early going, but started to look nastier around the fourth inning. He should help over the next couple of months, and maybe a significant amount.
- Dayan Viciedo maxed out his range in the seventh inning when he ran down Joe Mauer's opposite-field drive, which looked like a double off the bat, and would have scored a run, and set up the Twins for two more. Jesse Crain, who had sketchy control, was thankful.
- Matt Thornton's record benefited from the proceedings -- he picked up the win for pitching a 1-2-3 inning, improving to 3-6 on the season.
- The Sox survived a four-hit night by Span at the top of Minnesota's order; the Sox's first four hitters went 1-for-15 with a walk.