MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox are surging into the
season's final week, wondering why they didn't start sooner.
Rookie Jerry Owens went 5-for-6 with three RBIs, the rest of the
White Sox lineup followed his lead, and Javier Vazquez used the
support for an easy 8-3 victory over the Twins on Saturday. "Where was all this in the summer?" manager Ozzie Guillen
said. "We're playing good baseball. Unfortunately, it's a little
too late for that." Indeed, the White Sox (68-87) have only a fourth-place finish to
shoot for now. They began the day with a half-game edge over the
Kansas City Royals in the fight to avoid the AL Central cellar.
Well, if they win their last seven games and the Twins lost their
last six, they would tie for third. Vazquez (14-8) gave up only one hit over the first five innings.
Jim Thome hit career home run No. 504, Darin Erstad hit one into
the upper deck, and every Chicago starter reached base at least
once. The White Sox had 16 hits, including three by Erstad. "That's why you can't ever underestimate these guys and that
lineup," Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer said. Vazquez won his third straight start, breezing behind an early
lead that reached 8-0 in the sixth. He surrendered a two-run homer
to Jason Kubel in the bottom half, but finished seven innings with
only four hits and two walks allowed. He struck out 11, giving him
57 in his last six starts. "He's been throwing like that for a little while, and
unfortunately we couldn't win more games," Guillen said. "We've
just not played good enough for him to win more games." Vazquez surpassed the 200-strikeout mark for the season, the
first time he's done that since 2003, and lowered his ERA to 3.79.
The White Sox extended his contract by three years through 2010 for
$34.5 million, a move that has helped him focus and apparently
succeed. "I've always said that I feel comfortable with one team,
because you know where you got to be," Vazquez said. "I have a
lot of confidence right now." The White Sox smashed balls all over the place against a pair of
right-handers auditioning for spots next year in Minnesota's
up-in-the-air rotation. Scott Baker (9-9) lasted only two innings and left trailing 3-0
after allowing five hits and one walk with just one strikeout.
Danny Richar ripped a single up the middle that glanced off the
back of Baker's hand in the second. He finished the inning and had
full range of motion, but manager Ron Gardenhire said he
experienced some numbness and was removed for precautionary
reasons. Baker wasn't available after the game. He was traveling home to
Louisiana to tend to a family issue. Boof Bonser entered to start the third, and he was awful.
Recently moved to the bullpen after a string of ugly starts, Bonser
completed three innings and allowed three straight baserunners to
begin the sixth. He gave up eight hits, five runs and two walks while striking
out three. Gardenhire was cranky after the game, and Bonser had was
at least partially responsible for his mood. "He just didn't get it done. Call it what you want. Guys go two
weeks without pitching and do fine," Gardenhire said. Bonser's last game was Sept. 10. This was his first career
relief appearance after 47 starts. "I haven't seen the field in a little while, but don't get me
wrong: I would've loved to have thrown three zeros on the board,
too," Bonser said. "I made some bad pitches, and they hit 'em. I
made some good pitches, and they hit 'em. I guess it was the worst
luck." Thome was Bonser's first batter. He hit a high fly to right that
sneaked inside the foul pole and a few feet over the wall, moving
him into a tie with Eddie Murray for 22nd place on baseball's
Thome moved up a notch on another career list, too, passing
Jimmie Foxx for 18th place with his 1,453rd walk. ... Kubel is
batting .341 with 11 doubles, 11 walks, four homers and 19 RBIs in
his last 24 games. ... White Sox 3B Andy Gonzalez left the game in
the seventh with a cut on his right hand that required two
stitches. The wound occurred when he tagged Brian Buscher as he
slid into the base. Josh Fields will move from LF and take
Gonzalez's place on Sunday.