CHICAGO — Monday’s series opener against the White Sox was everything you might imagine from two of the American League’s best teams: Tight, tense and exciting.
It wasn’t, as you might imagine from two of the league’s better offenses, a high-scoring affair.
Both teams left plenty of men on base throughout the night before the White Sox finally broke through for two runs in the eighth inning off Twins closer Taylor Rogers to lift them to a 3-1 win in the first of a four-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field.
It was a tough night for Rogers, who walked the first two batters he faced after lengthy at-bats. Yoan Moncada saw seven pitches before taking his base and Luis Robert saw 10, fouling off five of them.
The next batter, pinch-hitter Adam Engel, pulled back a bunt attempt before shooting a tie-breaking single up the middle to put the White Sox on top.
“They did a good job putting the ball in play,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We had some movement in our infield on the play and we have some guys crashing and some guys reading the play. There are a lot of things going on but a ground ball was hit right in an empty space. That does happen. They put the ball in play and made something happen with runners on base and sometimes that’s all you need and that’s what they were able to do.”
Tim Anderson, the next batter, followed with an RBI double, ending Rogers’ night. The two runs in the eighth broke a tie that had stood since the fifth inning.
The Twins, who were without Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Marwin Gonzalez, were not without their opportunities. They put the leadoff runner on base in five of the first six innings, but were only able to score one run. They finished the day 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position and left 15 on base.
“We had plenty of opportunities. Our at-bats were actually pretty good when we had the opportunities with the runners in scoring position. They probably weren’t as good,” Baldelli said. “We just weren’t able to get it done when there were guys out there waiting for a hit but that’s going to happen. There’s nothing to that. It’s just something that does happen and again, it felt like almost every inning we had a guy or two out there just getting on, getting on early and we just weren’t able to push him across.”
The Twins’ only run came in the fifth inning when Jorge Polanco delivered a two-out single right after Nelson Cruz had been intentionally walked before him.
Cruz, a noted White Sox killer, had prime opportunities in both the third inning and the sixth with runners in scoring position, but bounced into a double play and struck out during those at-bats, respectively. In the eighth, after the Twins had loaded the bases with two outs, Cruz grounded out to Anderson to end the threat, leaving nine runners on base in total for the night.
The White Sox, who finished 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base, scored just one run against Jose Berrios in his five innings. The run, which scored on a Nick Madrigal single that dropped in front of Max Kepler, gave the White Sox an early lead in the second inning.
Berrios recorded a pivotal out later in that inning, getting White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu to ground out with the bases loaded, and battled through his outing, which included just one clean inning.
“They have a good offense. I had a mind to go out there and be aggressive with them. I know they’re going to take great at-bats, but we’re going to throw and execute good pitches,” Berrios said. “They scored on me in the second inning. They scored with a blooper to right field. That’s part of the game. … We had a plan, we executed it, and we competed to be aggressive with them.
While both teams are primed to make the playoffs no matter what happens this week in Chicago, the series is important for playoff seeding and American League Central superiority. The White Sox now lead the Twins by two games in the division.
“We are fighting for that first spot in the division. We are both great teams. We saw that tonight. But I think we don’t need to change anything,” Berrios said. “Just keep doing what we’ve been doing so far this year. That’s the way we always do it.”
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