MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time since Aug. 20, 2018, the White Sox beat the Twins at Target Field.
Their 6-4 victory Monday night ended a seven-game losing streak at the home of the American League Central leaders. But as has seemingly been the case for many of the White Sox victories in Minnesota, it did not come easy.
Here are four reasons why the White Sox were able to improve to 56-68 in the series opener.
Nova gets stronger
In the matter of three Twins hitters, White Sox right-hander Ivan Nova gave up as many runs at Target Field as he had in his previous 37 innings combined.
Nova allowed doubles to Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco, followed by Nelson Cruz’s run-scoring single for a 2-0 Minnesota advantage. But Yolmer Sanchez turned a double play on Eddie Rosario’s hard-hit grounder to second, and the White Sox kept the Twins silent until Polanco’s seventh-inning home run off reliever Aaron Bummer.
Nova allowed 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and one walk. But he told manager Rick Renteria this fifth straight individual victory might have been his best start of the year. And this was a man who threw a complete game against the Astros in his last start.
“A lot of guys would maybe say why,” Nova said. “The way I was throwing the first two innings, I feel like I didn't have my best stuff. I was able to go to the sixth and only give up two runs. They had 10 hits. To be able to give up just two runs took a lot of hard work.”
“Nice job for him,” Renteria said. “He's been grinding and putting together a nice showing here over the last whatever number of games he's been throwing. He's got experience behind him, and he's been able to execute and get it done.”
Abreu goes deep
A three-run blast from José Abreu in the third inning off Kyle Gibson turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. Abreu’s first-pitch connection had an exit velocity of 113 mph, an xBA of .970 and traveled 442 feet, per Statcast. Gibson induced a double play from Abreu with a first-inning sinker, but Abreu was ready for a similar pitch without the same location the second time around.
“It was a perfect swing,” said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. “When you make that kind of connection, you don’t feel the ball hit the bat. When you see the ball fly you say, ‘OK, that was a good one.’”
Said Gibson: “Had a chance to get out of there with two outs, and unfortunately made the wrong pitch at the wrong time to the wrong spot.”
Abreu actually heard from Minnesota first-base coach Tommy Watkins on the blast, and when Cruz got to first, he gave him a “wow.”
“I didn’t see the ball,” Abreu said. “I don’t like to follow it because I don’t want to disrespect anybody. To have a chance to see the replay in the video room, I said, ‘That was far.’”
Squeezing out insurance
Sanchez’s suicide squeeze to score Tim Anderson with the team’s fifth run in the seventh was his ninth sacrifice this season, tops in the Majors among non-pitchers. It was made all the more surprising coming on a 0-2 pitch from Gibson.
“Once again, crazy that they did a suicide squeeze instead of a safety squeeze in that instance,” Gibson said. “They’re up by two, and 0-2 on the hitter, normally you might do a safety in that instance. But once I saw him out of the corner of my eye, I knew there was only a chance at first.”
Said Renteria: “They both executed it very, very well obviously.”
Gibson couldn’t remember seeing a suicide squeeze with two strikes.
Colome closes it out
Minnesota scored one run in the ninth and put the winning run at the plate in Miguel Sano with two on and two out. Aside from one potential mistake pitch at 2-1 fouled back by Sano, Alex Colome stayed out of the zone in the entire at-bat. He was willing to walk Sano and face Marwin Gonzalez with the bases loaded, but he eventually struck Cano out swinging. The White Sox improved to 44-0 when leading after eight innings.
“You know he’s a great hitter,” Colome said. “I just tried to keep my ball down. I tried to throw my cutter, the best pitch I can do for him. Just looking for the ground ball or the strikeout.”