When considering how much Erik Johnson labored through five innings and the fact that the White Sox contributed two outs on the basepaths, this should have been an easier victory for the Twins.
At least some strange decision-making by Robin Ventura gave them a comfortable finish.
Maybe Minnesota would've won this one even if Trevor Plouffe's solo shot in the eighth inning off Nate Jones was the last run allowed, as the White Sox offense couldn't put together much of an attack. But with a one-run deficit in the ninth inning, Ventura called on Zach Putnam, who was fresh off the DL and hadn't pitched in more than two weeks.
And Ventura left Putnam in long enough to allow six consecutive Twins to reach with one out. Kurt Suzuki started the inning with a lineout, but Eduardo Escoar followed with a homer to make it a 4-2 game, and a walk single, intentional walk (set up by a wild pitch), run-scoring wild pitch, walk and RBI single by Plouffe later, Ventura finally turned to Dan Jennings, who recorded the last two outs with little issue.
Putnam's line: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, and only 12 of 30 pitches for strikes. Strange.
It would've been more objectionable if the White Sox 1) weren't already trailing, and 2) weren't close to a protected draft pick, which is the silver lining. The Sox held a 2-1 lead through five innings, but both runs scored in the fifth on Adam Eaton's 13th homer of the year (he's now second by himself on the team's home run leaderboard.
That was one of only six Sox hits on the night, and they only had nine baserunners (two hits, one HBP), two of which were eliminated by baserunning mistakes. Torii Hunter racked up assists on both, foiling Mike Olt's attempt to stretch a single into a double in the third inning, then throwing out Avisail Garcia at the plate on Rob Brantly's single. That was the only hit by the White Sox in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Yet Johnson was in line for the win against considerable odds. He could've been trailing 4-0 after one inning, but Garcia robbed Eddie Rosario of a grand slam with a leaping catch to end the first. He received further help from the defense by Brantly, who executed a SHOTHO in the second inning, then gunned down Aaron Hicks at third base after quickly corralling a pitch in the dirt.
Plouffe led off with the fourth with his first homer of the game, belting a hanging slider out to left, but that was the only damage allowed by Johnson despite a ton of traffic on the basepaths (four hits, five walks). He did strike out six, so, as you might expect, he threw 113 pitches over those five innings.
Daniel Webb then gave up one run in one inning, as Rosario singled and Hunter doubled to tie the game at 2. The Sox could never rally, as Ervin Santana, Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen combined to retire nine of the last 10 Sox hitters. Olt was the lone exception, drawing a walk with one out in the seventh. Tyler Saladino pinch-ran for him and stole second, but Eaton struck out to strand him.
*Micah Johnson made his first start since returning. He doubled, struck out twice and made a great diving stab-and-throw at second.
*The White Sox threw 186 pitches; the Twins 134.
*Suzuki pulled off a beautiful anti-framing job, spoiling this pitch down the middle
When a pitch down the middle isn't a strike. pic.twitter.com/hG9S8eyiae— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) September 12, 2015
*And this is a first:
Trivia question tonight was what is Sale's nickname? Condor. Up on the big screen at the Cell.— larry southsidesox (@SouthSidelarry) September 12, 2015
Record: 66-73 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights