Four homers help Twins keep pace
Minnesota downs Chicago; Gardenhire wins No. 700
CHICAGO -- The Twins went through a stretch earlier this month where runs were hard to come by, and that was with their everyday leadoff man and cleanup hitter in the lineup.So having already lost Justin Morneau for the season due to a stress fracture in his back and playing without tablesetter Denard Span after he was hit in the head by a pitch the previous night, Minnesota might have appeared to be in trouble when it came to Tuesday night's offensive shootout with Chicago. Instead, the Twins continued to show the type of tenacity it takes to stay in pennant chases, as they overcame a rough outing by rookie starter Jeff Manship by finding some other hot bats to help carry the load in an 8-6 victory over White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. After the win, the Twins toasted manager Ron Gardenhire on career victory No. 700 and also that they managed to remain 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers in the American League Central following Detroit's win over Cleveland. "It goes to show you how relentless this team is," Michael Cuddyer said of his team finding other sources of offense. "We've said it all along the past couple weeks, 'Just figure out a way to win.' Tonight, we needed to score runs -- and we did." If there has been one key component in the Minnesota lineup since Morneau went down a little over a week ago, it's been Cuddyer. He continued his recent hot spell Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI that came courtesy of his 29th home run of the season. Cuddyer finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. "Cuddy has really been huge," Gardenhire said, referring the slugger's 15 RBIs since he took over for Morneau. "He just seems to keep coming up and getting big base hits for us, and homers and the whole package. It's much needed." For Cuddyer, the strong night continued his career success against Danks. Cuddyer has now gone 16-for-30 (.533) with five home runs and 11 RBIs against the White Sox lefty. "Cuddyer owns me," said Danks, who gave up seven runs over his six innings. "I think we should just walk him every time he comes up. I'm at a loss for words. He's a [good] ballplayer. For whatever reason, those guys got something on me or I just serve up cookies. ... Before long, all nine of them will hit .500 against me, so we'll go from there." But it wasn't just Cuddyer who delivered Tuesday, as his home run was one of four for the Twins -- marking their first four-homer game since July 20. Orlando Cabrera, Matt Tolbert and Jason Kubel also went deep. Cabrera hit a two-run shot -- his eighth home run of the season -- as part of a three-run first inning off Danks. Cuddyer and Tolbert each added solo homers in the sixth to retake the lead after Chicago had once again tied the score, and Kubel tacked on an additional run when he led off the eighth inning with his 24th long ball of the year. All of the runs were needed for the Twins to overcome a rocky outing by Manship. The right-hander struggled in his fourth career Major League start, lasting just 2 1/3 innings while allowing four runs on five hits. It was made even more difficult to swallow as Manship, who now has a 6.89 ERA over his four starts, squandered the three-run lead Minnesota had built in the top of the first. Manship walked the first batter he faced, Scott Podsednik, and the speedy leadoff man stole second before eventually scoring Chicago's first run. While Manship managed to limit the early damage done against him, things went south in the third inning. After retiring the first batter, Manship proceeded to give up five straight hits -- including two home runs that put the Twins in a 4-3 hole. "He couldn't get the ball where he wanted to," Gardenhire said. "It was an emotional thing for him. It's a tough place in a pennant race like this, and he just didn't have a good night tonight." Minnesota had to turn to Francisco Liriano to take over for Manship in the third inning, and it might need to do the same in the next turn of the rotation. While Liriano's night was not perfect -- he gave up one run over 2 1/3 innings that allowed the game to be tied at 5 -- he showed better movement on his pitches. At a time when the Twins feel wins are needed in every contest, they might turn to someone like Liriano to fill in Manship's spot Sunday against the Royals. "[Catcher Joe] Mauer told me the ball was coming out of Frankie Liriano's hand better than it has in a long, long time," Gardenhire said. "When the ball is coming out of his hand like that, it makes it exciting for us. He feels really good, really strong." Liriano was one of five relievers used to help capture the victory. Joe Nathan finished off the night by capturing his 43rd save, one shy of his career high. So two games into a difficult 10-game road trip that will determine whether or not the Twins will remain in the AL Central race, they have found a way to pick up two victories and cut another half-game off Detroit's lead. And right now, the confidence only seems to be growing as Minnesota inches closer to its final four games with Detroit next week at Comerica Park.
"I think it shows that a lot of our young guys are starting to deal with the pressures of the pennant race," Nathan said. "You are starting to see guys go out and play baseball. We're not worried about what happens on the other field [where Detroit is playing]. We have to take care of business here."But we're playing pretty good baseball. So we're going to try to ride this wave as long as we can. When we get to Detroit next week, we'll see what we need to do there. For now, we just have to concentrate on tomorrow."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.