Gomez, Hernandez lead Twins over Sox
Center fielder hits for cycle, starter goes nine in victory
CHICAGO -- No team likes to sit through long rain delays, even if they occur before the start of the game like the 1-hour, 44-minute delay the Twins endured prior to Wednesday night's contest against the White Sox.But catcher Mike Redmond felt that if any starter on the team's staff could handle the duty of pitching well following such a delay, it was right-hander Livan Hernandez.
"I told [pitching coach] Rick Anderson that this was a perfect night for Livo," Redmond said. "He's always ready to pitch. He doesn't need to go out and warm up for 40 minutes. He just has to go out and throw a few quick warmups and he's ready to go."Hernandez certainly appeared not to be fazed by the delay, handling the task with relative ease, in the Twins' 13-1 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. On a night when center fielder Carlos Gomez stole the show by hitting for the cycle, becoming the eighth Twin in history to do so, and the first in over 20 years, Hernandez was nearly as mesmerizing. The Twins' right-hander pitched the 44th complete game of his career, holding Chicago to just one run on nine hits. Hernandez appeared in line to record his eighth career shutout as well, heading into the ninth without having allowed a run. But one night after White Sox starter Gavin Floyd saw his no-hitter attempt broken up with one out in the ninth, Hernandez watched his shutout attempt ended at the very same junction. Right fielder Jermaine Dye drove in the only Sox run with one out in the ninth when he belted his fifth home run of the season, a 381-foot shot over the left-field wall. "I wanted to throw a complete-game shutout, but Dye hit a home run with a slider," Hernandez said. "But it happens." The run might have erased the shutout effort, but it didn't take away from the brilliant start that Hernandez (5-1) delivered. He kept the White Sox hitters off-balance all night, mixing in everything from his 59-mph curveball to his 85-mph fastball. It was an ability to use that fastball to get ground-ball outs early in the game that kept Hernandez's pitch count remarkably low. Through five innings, Hernandez had thrown just 49 pitches, allowing just two hits and one walk over that span. The sixth inning was the only time that Hernandez allowed two hits in the same inning. Jim Thome hit a two-out single to left field that was followed by a double to left from Paul Konerko. Hernandez was able to make it out of the inning unscathed, however, when Dye flew out to left for the final out of the inning. "He pitched well," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "He has been pitching well for them, and has been pitching well for most of his career." Hernandez's 121-pitch effort was the first complete game by a Twins pitcher this season. It also marked the most pitches that Hernandez has thrown so far this season. The pitcher has long prided himself on being able to go deep into outings, and this night was no different. "I feel really good this year," Hernandez said. "To throw a complete game is difficult. I got 44 in my career now. I think only Randy Johnson and somebody else have more than me. It's something special for me." Hernandez was helped by getting a solid effort from his offense one night after the team was nearly no-hit by Floyd. Gomez got the night started with a leadoff home run in the first off White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, the beginning of what would be a reverse cycle for the center fielder. He would tally a run-scoring triple in the fifth, an RBI double in the sixth and then a leadoff infield single in the ninth to cap off the cycle. It was the first cycle hit by a Twins player since Aug. 1, 1986, when Kirby Puckett accomplished the feat. "He set the tone for us, hitting that home run right off the bat after such a long delay," Redmond said of Gomez. "He was out and ready to go. That's nice to see out of a young player. And what a night for him. That was unbelievable." The home run gave Hernandez an early lead, and the Twins just kept adding to it. Gomez's double in the sixth was part of a five-run inning for the Twins. It included a three-run double by Nick Punto, who got the start at shortstop. < Punto would finish the night with five RBIs, after delivering a two-run triple in the Twins' six-run ninth inning. He wasn't the only backup player to step up and deliver offensively. Redmond also had a big night at the plate, tallying four RBIs, including a three-run double to right in the ninth. "You know what?" Twins acting manager Scott Ullger asked. "They prepare themselves. Nicky is a good player. And I've said it before, I think he's way too good to be a role player. All the guys were ready and prepared tonight." That included Hernandez, whom Ullger credited with being the main force behind the club's win, despite the lopsided offensive efforts between the two clubs. "What can you say about Livan?" Ullger said. "He was just awesome. He was in and out, soft, hard, with his pitches. He had everything working."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.