Twins jump out to four-run lead, hang on to top White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins have often pestered the Chicago White Sox with their small-ball style.

Their bunting success has dropped off drastically this season, but the Twins went back to old ways and beat the White Sox to begin an important series.

Joe Mauer's two-out single snapped a seventh-inning tie, and Nick Blackburn and the Twins hung on for a 6-4 victory over the White Sox on Friday night.

After being swept during the week by the New York Yankees, third-place Minnesota stayed four games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central race. The White Sox are 3 1/2 games back.

Mauer drove in Nick Punto, who started with a walk against Octavio Dotel (1-3) and moved up on a sacrifice by Denard Span and a stolen base. In the eighth, Matt Tolbert stole third and scored on a perfect two-out bunt by Carlos Gomez against Bobby Jenks.

"They can do a lot of good things," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was so famously frustrated by the Twins' contact hitters he started calling them "The Piranhas" for their pesky yet dangerous skills.

Gomez set a Minnesota record last year with 30 bunt hits, but this year with less playing time and opposing third basemen frequently playing in he hasn't made much of an impact with that weapon at all.

It's not just him. Manager Ron Gardenhire and his coaches have been trying to get the other speed-based players in the lineup to bunt more, but with little success.

"Make things happen," Gardenhire said.

Gomez, who raised his average to .222, was asked if he'd be more intentional about bunting in the second half.

"It depends on what kind of situation. ... I don't want to drop a bunt when everybody plays 3 feet away in the grass," he said.

Blackburn (8-4) went seven innings despite an absence of his best stuff.

"I was all over the place," he said.

Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan were perfect in the eighth and ninth, though; Nathan notched his 23rd save and gave Minnesota nine wins in the last 10 meetings against Chicago at the Metrodome.

"So? I couldn't care less," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had three hits against his original team. "Tomorrow's a new day. We can lose 100 in a row, but the next day is always a chance to win."

The Twins took a 4-0 lead against Chicago starter John Danks in the first inning, but let the White Sox come back to tie it. This was not close to the duel Blackburn and Danks produced on that crisp night in Chicago last September when the White Sox topped the Twins 1-0 to win the AL Central tiebreaker game and move on to the playoffs.

After giving up only 22 hits and six runs over 35 2/3 innings in his previous five starts, Danks walked the first four batters he faced before a two-run double by Jason Kubel and an RBI single by Michael Cuddyer stretched the lead to 4-0.

"It's the first time I've ever walked four in a row," Danks said. "Little League. High school. You name it."

Cuddyer was too casual with his lead at first base, though, and he gave Danks his first out by getting picked off. The lefty quickly ended the inning and allowed just two hits and a walk during the rest of his outing -- which lasted 5 2/3 innings.

"He saved the bullpen. He deserves a lot of credit for what he was able to do," Pierzynski said, praising Danks.

Pierzynski was in the middle of nearly every rally with a single and a pair of doubles. The second one put runners at second and third with no outs in the sixth, but Cuddyer made a leaping catch against the wall in right field to hold Chris Getz -- who had two RBIs -- to a sacrifice fly. Slick stops by Joe Crede and Nick Punto on sharp grounders made the next two outs.

"He didn't have his greatest stuff, but it's about grinding it out and getting deep in the game," Gardenhire said.

Game notes
Guillen said struggling LH Clayton Richard will remain in the rotation after the All-Star break, because there aren't any alternatives for now. The White Sox are waiting for Bartolo Colon to complete his rehab assignment, and Freddy Garcia is also working his way back in the minors. ... Twins LH Glen Perkins is finally feeling better and will start on Saturday, three days after he fell ill. Perkins is also slated to take the mound next Friday in Texas, when the rotation is reset to start the second half.