Two homers give Twins win over White Sox
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ricky Nolasco picked up the win in his return from the 15-day disabled list, backed by homers from Torii Hunter and Trevor Plouffe in a 5-3 victory over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.
Nolasco, who was out for nearly a month with inflammation in his right elbow, wasn't his sharpest, but he kept the Twins in the game. The right-hander went five innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, before he was removed for pitch-count reasons. Relievers Aaron Thompson, Blaine Boyer, Brian Duensing, Michael Tonkin and Glen Perkins combined to close it out for the Twins, who won their third straight to reach .500 for the first time this season at 12-12.
"We crept back to .500 after our rough start, so hopefully, we can build on it from there," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "The biggest thing is we were able to hold the fort down after things looked pretty miserable in the beginning."
White Sox right-hander Hector Noesi struggled, giving up five runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings. He gave up a solo homer to Plouffe in the second and a two-run shot to Hunter in the third. Minnesota took the lead for good in the fifth with a go-ahead RBI single from Plouffe and a sacrifice fly from Kurt Suzuki. It is the fourth straight loss for the White Sox, who are just 2-10 on the road this season.
"The Twins are playing well, and everything they hit is a base hit," said White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia, who extended his hitting streak to eight games with two hits. "We're hitting the ball at people and we can't do anything about it, so hopefully, everything gets better tomorrow.''
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Plouffe, there it is! Plouffe had a big day at the plate for the Twins, smacking a solo shot in the second to give the Twins their first run before coming through with the go-ahead RBI single with the bases loaded in the fifth. Plouffe's solo blast, his team-leading fourth of the season, came off Noesi, and his bloop single to right came against lefty Carlos Rodon.
"It was the first time we saw him in person," Molitor said of Rodon. "Trevor chased a couple early but was able to muscle that ball to right field. That was a big at-bat for us."
Rodon in relief: Rodon, the White Sox top prospect per MLB.com, made his third career relief appearance with the score tied, runners on the corners and one out in the fifth inning. Rodon walked Joe Mauer to load the bases, gave up a go-ahead single to Plouffe as the culmination of a seven-pitch at-bat and then allowed Suzuki's sacrifice fly. Rodon has been inconsistent during both outings in which he entered mid-inning. He threw a five-pitch scoreless frame when he started the eighth in Baltimore. More >
Hunter goes deep: Hunter entered Saturday with just one homer on the season but connected on a deep drive to left for a two-run homer in the third inning to tie the score. Hunter's blast with two outs scored Jordan Schafer, who led off the inning with a walk.
"He hung me a slider I could capitalize on," Hunter said. "Kirby Puckett always told me, 'That's a gift from God. Don't miss your blessing.'"
Many baserunners, few runs: In each of the first three innings, the White Sox put at least two runners on base against Nolasco. Alexei Ramirez singled and Conor Gillaspie doubled to open the second, and Melky Cabrera singled and Jose Abreu was hit by a pitch to start the third. The White Sox scored just three runs total during that stretch. The White Sox put on two more in the eighth, but Molitor used four pitchers to get the three outs without the visitors scoring.
"We need something to fall through when we get a lot of guys on," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We had some opportunities that we are not cashing in on. Eventually, it's going to happen."
"He told me he wanted me to hit one for him today. So that was pretty cool. It was a cool moment for us." -- Plouffe, on hitting his homer after his former teammate Josh Willingham told him before the game to hit one. Willingham, now retired, attended the game with his family.
"He's known that's what his role is going to be. It's not like we are surprising him with anything. He knew that. He's prepared for that." --Ventura, on using Rodon in high-leverage relief situations, despite his career experience as a starter
Micah Johnson's groundout in the second inning, originally ruled an infield single and then overturned by video replay, scored Ramirez for his first career RBI.
With runners at second and third with one out in the second, Johnson hit a grounder to second baseman Brian Dozier, who threw to Nolasco at first, but first-base umpire Chad Fairchild ruled that Johnson beat it out. Molitor challenged the play and it was overturned, so Johnson was ruled out and credited with an RBI groundout.
An inning later, Ventura challenged a play at second base, where Garcia was ruled out by second-base umpire Jim Joyce on a stolen-base attempt to end the inning. Ventura's challenge was unsuccessful; after a review, the call on the field stood.
White Sox: John Danks makes his fifth start of the season and third on the road on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. It will be his 28th career start against the Twins, with a previous mark of 7-13 and a 5.59 ERA to go with a 2-5 record with a 7.74 ERA over eight starts at Target Field.
Twins: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey makes the start in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Pelfrey has been the club's best starter early this season, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts.
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