MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Twins trailing by two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Target Field crowd suddenly came alive Thursday afternoon. And it wasn't totally because of Eduardo Nunez's two-out pinch-hit single to extend the frame.
Miguel Sano, the rookie sensation who was out of the starting lineup for the series finale to rest his strained right hamstring, picked up a bat to pinch-hit. He would stand in as the tying run against hard-throwing Nate Jones, the same White Sox reliever who gave up Sano's game-tying homer in the seventh inning of Minnesota's victory on Tuesday. But one long blast two days ago certainly wasn't about to make Jones back down in what eventually turned out to be a 6-4 White Sox win.
In fact, when manager Robin Ventura visited the mound before the at-bat, Jones confidently told Ventura he wanted to face the Twins slugger.
"I definitely let him know that I wanted it," said a smiling Jones, who threw scoreless relief over 1 2/3 innings. "He got me the other night and it's just being a competitor, you want to see what you can do. Go after him again."
"Yeah he wanted that one," Ventura agreed. "The Sano at-bat again, there's a chance there to bring in Robbie [David Robertson]. You talk to him and make sure he's all right. I know it didn't go his way last time, he hit a homer off of him last time. Some guys have enough in the tank to go after it again. He wanted that one and he got the big out there."
When Sano won Round 1, it was off of a 3-2 slider that caught too much of the plate. On this occasion, Jones opened with a fastball out of the zone and then threw a slider that Sano took for a strike.
"Not really exactly where I wanted it," said Jones of the slider. "But he didn't swing, so we're good."
Jones finished with three fastballs at 97, 98 and 98 mph, with the last one put into play as an inning-ending fly ball to right. This matchup came one inning after Jones entered with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, only to strike out Trevor Plouffe and Kennys Vargas. Jones gave credit to catcher Geovany Soto for helping him survive this portion of a 31-pitch, 22-strike outing -- especially with Vargas, whom he didn't know well.
"That's what we do with almost every hitter anyway, just trust the catcher," Jones said. "They do all the homework and know the hitters inside and out. I told Geo, 'I'm going to go with whatever you say,' and we got the job done."