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Preview: Twins (72-67) at White Sox (66-72)
Venue: U.S. Cellular Field
Date: September 11, 2015 8:10 PM EDT
Miguel Sano may have earned his way back into the Minnesota Twins’ lineup with one big swing in his last at-bat.
The Twins have a .500 record on this nine-game road trip and will look to take advantage of a Chicago White Sox team they’ve fared well against when they start a three-game series Friday night.
Sano has been bothered by a hamstring injury and was not in the starting lineup in the last two games, with a 1-for-15 slump on the trip also playing a role. Manager Paul Molitor called upon him in the 12th inning against Kansas City on Wednesday and the rookie delivered a pinch-hit home run for a 3-2 victory.
The Twins (72-67) improved to 3-3 on the trip as they try to catch Texas for the second wild card. They took a two-run lead in the sixth inning before letting it slip away to set up Sano’s homer against baseball’s best bullpen.
“It’s a good win and you gotta kind of savor those,” Molitor said. “You come back and find a way to win that game after you let them tie the game.”
The manager did not indicate whether Sano will be back in his lineup. It’s a good bet that first baseman Trevor Plouffe will start after being out of the lineup Wednesday, although the Twins’ RBI leader is mired in a 4-for-20 slide with no RBIs in his last seven games.
Less certain is whether catcher Kurt Suzuki will be available after leaving with a bruised left knee due to a collision at the plate.
‘The doctor’s report is fairly optimistic,’ Molitor said. “We’re hoping the initial diagnosis is accurate and there’s no ligament damage in there.”
Minnesota is 11-5 against Chicago (66-72), splitting six games at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Twins’ Ervin Santana (4-4, 4.93 ERA) has allowed one run with 21 strikeouts in 15 innings over two consecutive victories. The right-hander made his season debut in July after serving an 80-game suspension for a positive steroid test.
“Missing the first half of the season we’re hoping for a fresh arm here on out and the last two starts have been really solid,” Molitor said.
Santana is 5-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 16 regular-season starts against the White Sox. Gordon Beckham has faced him the most among Chicago hitters with a .192 average in 29 plate appearances.
Beckham did not start any of the games this week as Chicago opted for younger players in the infield while losing two of three at home to Cleveland. Neither did Adam LaRoche, who has patellar tendinitis in his right knee.
A pair of youngsters, Tyler Saladino and Trayce Thompson, went deep in Wednesday’s 6-4 defeat. Jose Abreu also homered for the second straight night.
The White Sox will give Erik Johnson (1-0, 4.50) his second start after he surrendered three runs in six innings to earn Sunday’s 7-5 win over the Royals.
“Since he’s been back, even from spring training, we’re seeing a confident guy,” manager Robin Ventura said.
The right-hander’s first career victory came when he threw six scoreless innings in a 12-1 rout of Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2013.