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Twins 7, White Sox 5: Close games take their toll

Ramon Troncoso's two-out, nobody-on walk to the batter before Joe Mauer sets stage for doom

Even a renaissance game by Paul Konerko wasn't enough.
Even a renaissance game by Paul Konerko wasn't enough.

The problem with a season full of close games is that, at some point, there will be late-and-close innings that the high-leverage guys just can't get to.

It's a tough choice no matter who Robin Ventura picks. For instance, he used Matt Thornton for a third consecutive day. He allowed the first two batters to reach, and eventually needed Ramon Troncoso to face Trevor Plouffe with runners on second and third.

That's how Troncoso ended up pitching in the eighth inning of a tie game. And Ventura would've gotten away with it, had Troncoso not issued a two-out walk to meddling Clete Thomas to bring Joe Mauer to the plate.

Instead of leading off the ninth, Mauer had a chance to keep the eighth alive (funny how that keeps happening when a team bats their best hitter second!). He did just that with a single, and then Troncoso summed up the inning in an at-bat for Ryan Doumit -- Troncoso got ahead 0-2, then gave up a crushed double to left-center to drive in the decisive runs.

That crushed a comeback that was kinda stirring, but more the result of two teams that deserved each other.

This game had all the makings of a Minnesota rout from the very first batter. Mike Pelfrey set the Sox down easy 1-2-3, while Dylan Axelrod's night started with a Gordon Beckham throwing error that allowed Thomas to reach. The next batter, Joe Mauer, took an out-and-up fastball and went with it over the left-field fence for a very quick 2-0 lead.

They weren't done. Thanks to Axelrod missing up with his fastball and an inability to locate a breaking ball, the Twins touched him up for two more runs. Axelrod got away with more misplaced pitches in the second before settling down, and that allowed the Sox to get back into the game.

Conor Gillaspie softened Minnesota's first-inning blow by delivering a big blast to right field in the second. With Paul Konerko on base, that cut the Twins' lead in half.

The next runs would be more of a fight. In the fifth, the Sox put runners on second and third after a Beckham single and a Tyler Flowers double. One run came in on Alejandro De Aza's grounder to short, but Flowers tried advancing to third, and ended up drawing the throw. What should've been a dumb baserunning play turned into a smart one when Flowers extended the rundown long enough for De Aza to reach second. The Sox merely took an out and upgraded their speed at second.

But they didn't upgrade the awareness. One batter later, Alexei Ramirez hit a weak grounder back through the box. Second baseman Brian Dozier kept it in the infield, but he didn't have a play at first. Anticipating a throw to first, De Aza rounded the bag generously, and ended up straying too far. Dozier threw back to third, and Plouffe applied the tag for the third out.

That run was huge, because in the sixth, Axelrod gave up an RBI single to restore Minnesota's lead to two -- and two runs was the most the Sox could score.

They finally chased Pelfrey in the seventh when Dayan Viciedo and Beckham started the singles to put runners on the corners. Reliever Casey Fien came in to face Tyler Flowers, and his second pitch went to the backstop ... and bounced right back to Doumit. Viciedo held his ground, but even the Wild PItch Offense is struggling to drive in runs these days. Flowers did cash in the run with a sac fly to center to make it a 5-4 game.

That was just the first out, but even though another wild pitch advanced Beckham to third, neither De Aza (strikeout) nor Ramirez (routine flyout) could cash him in.

The tying run finally scored in the eighth. Alex Rios drew a walk, stole second, and after an Adam Dunn strikeout, came home on Paul Konerko's fourth hit of the night, a single up the middle. Pinch-running Jordan Danks advanced to second on a Gillaspie groundout, but Viciedo popped out to right field. The White Sox never led, and they're back to 10 games below .500 as a result.

Record: 29-39 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights