MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Twice, Joe Nathan and the Minnesota Twins were one strike from finishing a three-game sweep of Chicago and all but burying the White Sox in the AL Central race.
Two homers and two walks prompted the rare sight of Manager Ron Gardenhire shuffling to the mound to remove his four-time All-Star closer before the ninth inning was over.
Minutes later came another uncommon occurrence: The White Sox winning at the Metrodome, celebrating their last game at Minnesota's quirky Teflon-covered home with a 4-2 victory on Wednesday.
``How crazy this thing is,' said manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team went 2-7 here this year and 3-16 since the summer of 2007. ``We figure out how to win in this place, and now we can't come here no more.'
When the Twins come back next week, they hope to still have their momentum. A recent surge brought them within 3 1/2 games of first-place Detroit when the day began, but this was an undeniably crushing defeat.
``I'm not a machine,' said Nathan, who notched his fifth blown save in 40 chances.
After two quick outs, Nathan went to a full count on Gordon Beckham and challenged him with a fastball that wound up in the left-field seats. Paul Konerko worked the count full, too, and he whacked a slider into about the same place to tie the game and ruin rookie Brian Duensing's seven shutout innings.
Then Nathan (2-2) really fell apart. He walked Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin before being relieved by Matt Guerrier. Alexei Ramirez's single scored pinch-runner Dewayne Wise, and Quentin came home on a wild pitch. That run was just Chicago's 13th in the last six games.
``I messed up a pretty well-pitched ballgame. I think I got a little too predictable,' Nathan said.
After six strong innings by starter Mark Buehrle, D.J. Carrasco (5-1) got the last out of the eighth and Bobby Jenks picked up his 28th save with a scoreless ninth.
Konerko walked into the clubhouse and jokingly declared, ``We own this place!'
The White Sox won for the second time in 58 games this season when trailing after eight and raised their record on this miserable road trip to 2-8. They hit into four double plays, Scott Podsednik was caught stealing after a leadoff single, and Quentin was easily thrown out trying to stretch for a double in the seventh inning.
The White Sox dropped the first two to Minnesota and fell seven games behind the Tigers, who were hosting Cleveland later. On top of that, popular designated hitter Jim Thome was traded this week. But as Nathan and the Twins stunningly found out, the White Sox still have something left.
``We're not playing great, but we're still fighting for sure,' Beckham said.
Jason Kubel's two-run, two-out single in the sixth inning against Buehrle, after Guillen ordered an intentional walk to Justin Morneau to load the bases, appeared to be all Duensing needed.
Duensing now has two wins and two no-decisions with a 1.88 ERA in four career starts. After struggling out of the bullpen, he has helped stabilize the rotation at this most critical time with three straight solid starts. Duensing and fellow rookie Jeff Manship now have two of the five spots, with three original starters on the disabled list.
``That's why we're here. We want to have those responsibilities,' Duensing said.
Buehrle hasn't won in eight starts since July 23, but he was happy.
``The way things have gone here with them we didn't think we'd have a chance to come back against Nathan,' Buehrle said. ``He showed he's human. It's just about time we play our last game here I think we figure out how to win.'
NOTES: Kubel threw out Quentin from LF. He vacated his DH duty to give Joe Mauer a break behind the plate. Gardenhire said Mauer will get a full day off during the upcoming seven-game road trip to Cleveland and Toronto. After a day off Thursday, the Twins play 13 straight days. ... The White Sox wrap up their trip back in Chicago - with a makeup game against the Cubs on Thursday. It's a bit anticlimactic with both teams having fallen in the standings, but Guillen insisted, ``Every time any team plays in Wrigley Field, it's exciting.' ... Morneau has one homer in his last 80 at_bats. His batting average has dropped more than 20 points to .286 during his monthlong slump. ... Guillen's not ready to give September call-ups Josh Fields and Tyler Flowers playing time: ``If I do that, then I say, 'I give up.' I'm not going to give up.'
The Associated Press News Service
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