CHICAGO -- Trevor Plouffe's eighth-inning homer, his second of the game, proved to be the game-winning drive in the Twins' 6-2 victory over the White Sox on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field. The victory helped the Twins keep pace with the Rangers for the American League's second Wild Card, with Texas maintaining its one-game lead by shutting out Oakland.
Plouffe connected in the fourth inning against White Sox starter Erik Johnson and came through with one out in the eighth against reliever Nate Jones. The Minnesota third baseman has 20 homers and 76 RBIs, adding a run-scoring single in the ninth. Eduardo Escobar, the one-time White Sox utility man, gave Minnesota an insurance run with a solo homer off Zach Putnam during what turned out to be a three-run ninth.
"Honestly speaking, it didn't have a real good feel early; we squandered opportunities," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "In those middle innings, you're behind in a game you should be ahead in. But we stayed with it."
Ervin Santana earned the victory, with help from Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen. Santana yielded two runs on six hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking two. The two runs were courtesy of Adam Eaton's two-run homer with one out in the fifth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Eaton dials long distance: The single-season home run high for the White Sox leadoff man increased by one in the fifth inning. Eaton connected on an 0-1 pitch from Santana. Eaton's 13th home run and 44th and 45th RBIs, scoring Mike Olt in front of him, traveled an estimated 412 feet with an exit velocity of 104 mph per Statcast™. More >
Caught on the basepaths: In a game where runs were hard to come by, both the Twins and White Sox were caught attempting to create offense. Minnesota's Torii Hunter was the first when he was caught stealing by Rob Brantly in the second inning on Kurt Suzuki's strikeout. With runners on first and second, Aaron Hicks tried to take third base on a wild pitch, but he was caught by Brantly to end the inning. Later in the frame, Olt was thrown out by Hunter trying to stretch a single into a double. And in the fourth, Avisail Garcia was thrown out at home by Hunter.
"It's been a while since somebody tested [my arm]," Hunter said. "So it was a lot of fun that they were testing it today. I was able to let loose and throw. I don't remember the last time I even had attempts to do that. So that was a lot of fun, and hopefully they'll learn from that."
Wildly effective: Johnson wasn't quite as sharp as his season debut last Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, but he minimized the damage despite walking five. Johnson threw just 62 of his 113 pitches for strikes, but struck out six and gave up four hits and one run over five innings.
"It was something to deal with early," Johnson said. "I thought I threw my fastball very well today in all five innings. But then I had to find my breaking stuff later. Started throwing some good changeups later. But early, it was a lot of down sliders. When I needed it, I put my fastball by someone."
It's been a while: Trevor Plouffe connected on his 19th home run to lead off the fourth inning, but it was his first long ball since Aug. 17 -- a stretch of 70 at-bats. The third baseman was hitting .188 over his last 20 games before the blast, moving him to second on the team in home runs. His second home run -- and 20th of the season -- marked his first multi-homer game since July 1, 2012.
"You know, it was just a hitter's count," said Johnson of Plouffe's first homer. " I'm sure he found something over the plate that he was looking for and that happens."
"I just wanna come through," Plouffe said. "I was upset after that first at-bat when I had the bases loaded and didn't get that job done. After that, I'm just trying to have good at-bats. Today, I was just able to hit a few balls out of the park." More >
AVISAIL DOES IT AGAIN
Garcia already has taken home runs away from Chris Davis and Didi Gregorious this season at U.S. Cellular Field. And while he probably didn't rob Eddie Rosario of a grand slam in the first inning of Friday's loss, he certainly took away a three-run extra-base hit with his leaping catch to end the frame.
"That was a great play," said Johnson of Garcia's catch up against the right-field wall. "There was a few great plays out there."
"Those were maybe two of the better throws he's made all season. He plays intelligently out there. We all know that you're not the same player at 40 that you are 30, but he plays smart." -- Molitor, on Hunter's outfield assists
"Just, again, small ballpark and wind blows out quite a bit. Those routine fly balls get out sometime, so it has been fortunate." -- Eaton, who had six career homers prior to this season
WHAT'S NEXT Twins:Tommy Milone takes the hill for the Twins in the second game of a three-game series against the White Sox on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Milone is 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA (20 2/3 IP, 2 ER) in three starts against the White Sox this season.
White Sox:Jose Quintana (8-10, 3.60 ERA) takes the mound at U.S. Cellular Field for the White Sox, who have just 12 home games remaining. Quintana is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA against the Twins this season.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.