Sano’s homer propels Twins past White Sox
MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sano has been playing with a strain of his right hamstring, a mild injury that’s still a concern for the Minnesota Twins.
There’s a natural solution to this. Keep hitting the ball into the seats, and Sano doesn’t have to run hard at all.
Sano’s towering home run tied the game for Minnesota in the seventh inning, and two Chicago errors aided the go-ahead rally in the eighth for the Twins in an 8-6 victory Tuesday night over the White Sox.
“It’s really important because this team can make the playoffs, so I’m excited about that,” said Sano, who took three steps before starting a slow jog to complete his 14th home run in his 50th major league game.
“Sano is the next Miguel Cabrera, in a couple years,” said teammate Eduardo Escobar. “He looks like a veteran guy, not a rookie.”
Escobar’s leadoff double, his third hit, started the trouble for Zach Duke (3-5), who threw away a sacrifice bunt attempt by Kurt Suzuki for one run. Third baseman Tyler Saladino let a grounder go through his legs, and the Twins scored twice more on a single and a sacrifice fly.
Kevin Jepsen (3-6) pitched a perfect eighth inning for the win. Glen Perkins recorded his 32nd save, his first in 16 days, despite a three-hit ninth that included an RBI single by Saladino.
Avasail Garcia’s two-run homer in the sixth inning gave Chris Sale and the White Sox a 5-4 lead, but Ventura pulled the lanky left-hander with one out in the seventh for hard-throwing righty Nate Jones for the right-handed heart of Minnesota’s order. Sano drove a full-count, two-out changeup from Jones into the second deck.
“He’s pretty calm up there. I know he’s young, but he doesn’t look young when he’s going to the plate,” Ventura said.
The Twins, who are 41-25 at home this year including 7-1 against the White Sox, stepped into September with a wild card spot in play, their first meaningful final month of the season in five years. The Twins started the day one game behind Texas for the second American League wild card spot. The Rangers played later Tuesday night at San Diego.
Promoted straight from Double-A two months ago, Sano had three hits to raise his batting average to a team-best .295. He has 41 RBIs.
Manager Paul Molitor said the hamstring “concerns me somewhat” but said team athletic trainers have told him Sano faces minimal risk for aggravating the injury because of the flexibility and strength he has in his leg.
“It isn’t bothering the swing, and he’s a tough guy to take out of there,” Molitor said.
Sale is 1-3 with a 6.30 ERA in five starts against the Twins this year and 11-4 with a 2.68 ERA in his 21 other turns. Sale threw two wild pitches in a four-run second by the Twins, when Escobar and Suzuki hit RBI singles and Brian Dozier added a two-run double.
Rookie Tyler Duffey, who has been a superb fill-in with Phil Hughes recovering from a back injury with a 1.89 ERA over his previous three starts, cruised into the fifth inning behind a sharp curveball with 14 outs through the first 14 batters he faced.
Then came the two-out single by Adam LaRoche, three consecutive walks to the last three hitters in the lineup and a two-run single by Adam Eaton to cut the lead to 4-3. Duffey was replaced by Neil Cotts, who finished that frame without further damage but left a runner on for Garcia to drive in with the homer in the sixth.
SALE ON STRIKEOUTS
Sale had 10 strikeouts for the White Sox, his 13th start this season with double digits. The last major league pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters that many times in a year was Randy Johnson, who had 13 such starts in 2004 for Arizona. Sale predictably downplayed the feat.
“I understand what it is and what it means, but at the same time we’re right in the thick of it right now and we’ve just started one of the hardest months of the year,” he said.
Sano said he’s getting treatment on his hamstring for 45 minutes before each game and 20 minutes after. The injury kept him out Friday, but that’s his only absence.
“I’m in pain, but I’m OK,” Sano said.
The White Sox send LHP Carlos Rodon (6-5, 4.15 ERA) to the mound Wednesday. LHP Tommy Milone (6-4, 3.86 ERA) starts for the Twins.
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