CHICAGO -- J.J. Hardy never recovered from a slow start last year, so it's safe to say he's enjoying this.
Hardy drove in Joe Mauer with a single in the 11th inning, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3 on Friday night for their fourth straight win."It's definitely important for me to get off to a good start considering last year I got off to a horrible start and the whole year was a down year," Hardy said. "New team, new bunch of guys and yeah, it's a good feeling over here."Now, all he has to do is keep it up.The go-ahead rally started when Mauer, pinch hitting for rookie Drew Butera, drew a leadoff walk against Tony Pena (0-1). He was sacrificed to second by Denard Span and moved to third on Orlando Hudson's line drive to deep center.That set the stage for Hardy, who fell behind 0-2 before knocking a 2-2 slider past diving shortstop Alexei Ramirez to make it 4-3."I didn't hit it hard but I hit it where they weren't," Hardy said. "I was pretty fortunate on my part, our part to get that over with."Hardy's hit made a winner of Brian Duensing (1-0), who pitched two scoreless innings. Jon Rauch worked the 11th for his third save in three chances, although the White Sox threatened.Alex Rios singled with one out but got caught stealing, and Omar Vizquel followed with another one before Span made a diving catch on Ramirez's sinking liner to center to end the game. Pena took the loss despite allowing just one hit in three innings.Justin Morneau had three hits for the Twins, Hardy had two more to put his early average at .333, and Jim Thome received a standing ovation when he pinch-hit for Nick Punto in the 10th. He responded by tipping his helmet and then struck out in his first appearance at U.S. Cellular Field since the White Sox traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.The White Sox had runners on first and second with one out in the bottom half after back-to-back singles by Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin, but Mark Teahen grounded into a double-play to remain hitless this season.The White Sox, meanwhile, continue to struggle at the plate. They've scored three runs in each of their three losses since a season-opening 6-0 win over Cleveland and were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position on Friday."We've got to get going," Teahen said. "Obviously nobody enjoys going through it, but everyone around here is more or less a veteran and knows what they need to do to get it going -- hopefully sooner than later."Chicago's John Danks and Minnesota's Francisco Liriano each threw six innings.Danks, a 13-game winner last season, allowed two runs and struck out six while walking one against a team that had nine homers and at least one in each of the first four games.Liriano, coming off a five-win season, allowed three runs and four hits."I wish I could remember everything that happened in the game," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was a grind 'em out, both sides threw about everything they had out there, benches, the whole package and missed opportunities."The Twins scored two in the sixth to take a 2-1 lead, but the White Sox responded with two in the bottom half. Their bullpen just couldn't protect the one-run cushion.Scott Linebrink walked Span leading off the seventh and Hardy with one out before Morneau tied it at 3 with a double to the right-field corner off Randy Williams. The White Sox intentionally walked Michael Cuddyer to load the bases for Jason Kubel, who fouled out. Rookie Sergio Santos then struck out Delmon Young and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound."Our pitching staff's been great," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think we've got to start swinging the bat better and make things happen. Our bats are very cold. ... It's hard to win games when I've got like four guys who can't even put up their average yet."
At 4-1, the Twins are off to their best start since 2007. ... Span broke an 0-for-10 skid with a single in the first. ... Omar Vizquel made his White Sox debut, starting at third.