Twins win battle of blasts to take Game 1
Morneau's slam, solo shot power Minnesota after pair of Sox homers
CHICAGO -- The Twins hit enough homers of their own on Friday afternoon to help overshadow the ones that Kyle Gibson keeps giving up from the mound.
Justin Morneau hit two dingers -- including a clutch grand slam, the seventh of his career and first since July 20, 2009, in Oakland -- as the Twins came back and held on for a 7-5 win against the White Sox in the first game of the day-night doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field.
Three of the White Sox's five runs came via the long ball, but all seven of the Twins' came on four home runs. Minnesota took advantage of its best scoring opportunity of the afternoon, which began when White Sox starter John Danks walked Clete Thomas and Pedro Florimon to start the seventh with the Twins trailing, 3-1.
Matt Lindstrom came in and struck out Brian Dozier, and lefty Donnie Veal walked Joe Mauer to load the bases. Righty Nate Jones followed and struck out Josh Willingham, who was serving as the designated hitter in his first game back off the disabled list since June 30.
Up next, Morneau swung and missed at the first pitch, a slider, from Jones, and fouled off four of the next five. The seventh pitch of the at-bat was deposited 382 feet into the right-field seats, giving Minnesota a 5-3 lead.
"The biggest thing for me, I think, with runners in scoring position or the bases loaded, is the pressure's on the pitcher," Morneau said. "He's the one who's in trouble. He's got to execute, he's got to make pitches. Obviously you want to stay aggressive, but at the same time get a pitch you want to hit, and you want him to come to you. I was lucky enough, with two strikes, to get a pitch to hit and hit just enough of it."
Said Danks: "Nate's been good this year. It's just the way things are going. I don't feel like he should've even been in that situation. If I could throw a darn ball over the plate, we'd be all right. We just shot ourselves in the foot, and a good hitter made us pay for it."
This came after Gibson went 5 2/3 innings, as one of his previous greatest strengths again surfaced as a weakness. In what has been a recurring trend lately, the right-hander gave up two home runs -- a solo shot to Paul Konerko in the second and an Alexei Ramirez two-run blast in the fifth. For Ramirez, it was his first homer since the second game of the season (April 3), a span of 451 at-bats.
"Both of those pitches were probably the two worst pitches of the day for me," Gibson said. "Although the one to Ramirez was in, it was still up. The one to Konerko, Joe called a pitch and I messed up. I should have called what he called. I just left a changeup up right down the middle."
Gibson, who made his first start with the Twins on June 29, did not allow a home run in his first four outings (spanning 22 1/3 innings). But over his last four -- including Friday -- he's given up seven long balls in 19 2/3 frames. Gibson started the year 2-2, but he is 0-1 with three no-decisions since.
"Everyone's watching video on me, and as they get more familiar and as I have more tendencies, they're looking at the numbers and trying to see when I throw certain pitches and what part of the zone I attack most against righties and lefties," Gibson said. "It's just something where I've got to make sure I stay out of patterns, but at the same time, don't go away from my strength. If my strength is an inside fastball, even if the hitters know it's coming, I still have to be able to throw it."
Right fielder Chris Colabello gave Minnesota its first jolt of offense, with a solo homer in the second inning. He went 2-for-3 on the afternoon, with the home run, a double and a walk. Oswaldo Arcia also hit a solo shot in the eighth to pad the lead.
Morneau added his second blast of the day in the ninth, a solo shot, to make it 7-3. The Twins would need Morneau and Arcia's insurance runs, too, because closer Glen Perkins gave up two runs in the ninth as the White Sox cut the lead to two. With the Sox down to their last out, Alejandro De Aza singled and Gordon Beckham doubled before Ramirez drove them in with a single. But Adam Dunn struck out to end the threat and the game.
"Even there with Perk at the end, the ball was flying all over," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "... These guys can score runs in a hurry. You know that, you're always nervous."
And that was a White Sox lineup that shuffled twice between the original lineup card manager Robin Ventura put out and the nine who took the field at 1:10 p.m. Dayan Viciedo was scratched with a sore left thumb and Alex Rios was traded to the Rangers shortly before game time.