Hunter, Twins again have Sale's number, keep pace in WC race

Hunter, Twins again have Sale's number, keep pace in WC race

CHICAGO -- Torii Hunter homered and drove in four runs, as the Twins once again gave White Sox ace Chris Sale trouble during a 7-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. The Twins won the weekend series, took the season series by a decisive 13-6 margin and stayed within one game of the Rangers in the race for the American League's second Wild Card.

While the Twins knocked out Sale after just three innings, Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson sailed along with the huge run support. He allowed five hits over 7 2/3 innings, struck out seven and walked one, improving to 3-0 vs. the White Sox this season and 4-0 lifetime with a 2.13 ERA.

It's Gibson's fifth scoreless start of the season -- the most among Twins starters. It's the first time since April 26 and May 1 that he has worked back-to-back starts of at least seven innings.

Gibson's scoreless start

"The offense did a great job today, and they made me a little more comfortable out there," Gibson said. "When you have cushion, you can go out there, pound the zone first pitch and not have to worry about a solo homer beating you. So it was a good team win for us."

"[Gibson] had super sink going, I know that," said White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers. "He seemed to have pretty good command of his changeup-split thing. He was doing a good job working that off his sinker. He threw enough breaking balls in there for strikes. Some guys chased them late. He's always been a pretty good pitcher. I think he was definitely on today, though."

Sale yielded nine hits and six runs, with the biggest shot coming off of Hunter's bat in the first. He battled the southpaw for nine pitches before launching one into the left-field stands for a three-run homer. Sale fell to 1-4 against the Twins in 2015.

"I don't know how we hit Sale," Hunter said. "I have no idea at all. Sale is probably the best lefty in the game, for me, the toughest lefty in the game, for me, and one of the toughest pitchers. For us to get runs off of him the last three starts, it's a testament to how this team doesn't give up. They fight."

Hunter's RBI single

"I feel like [Sale] made some really good pitches that got hit hard today," said Flowers. "We made mistakes in there, too, but I don't know. A little out of the ordinary. Nobody else seems to be able to do it against him, so let's figure it out."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Hunter vs. Sale: Sale nearly worked out of a two-out jam with runners on first and second, but Hunter made him pay with a three-run shot that gave the Twins a 4-0 lead. Hunter's at-bat lasted 10 pitches, with him fouling off the eighth and ninth before hitting his 19th home run of the season. It's the first time Hunter has gone deep in an at-bat that long.

"I was battling, trying to make something happen," Hunter said. "When you face a guy like Sale, you know you have to come with your 'A' game. You can't with that 'B' game, because that doesn't work. He's an 'A' pitcher." More >

Montas makes a difference: Frankie Montas, the hard-throwing White Sox rookie, got an early call on Sunday after Sale was lifted to start the fourth. Although the Twins loaded the bases twice against the right-hander, he flashed the raw ability that has the team upbeat about his long-term chances for success. Montas struck out five over three innings and 65 pitches, including fanning the side in the sixth, when Minnesota scored its lone run off of him.

Montas' strong relief work

"I was just trying to [approach it like] a starter," Montas said. "Tried to go out there and make good pitches and throw strikes." More >

Eaton slips up: Miguel Sano's liner in the third inning appeared to be the final out of the inning, but it dropped in for a single after Adam Eaton misplayed the ball. Eaton backtracked too far and slipped coming forward, but the play was not ruled an error. Minnesota scored two runs in the inning off Sale, enough to knock the lefty out of the game.

Sale struggles again: The White Sox lost for a fourth straight start made by Sale, but the bigger news was Minnesota once again making solid contact off the AL Cy Young candidate. In six starts this season against the Twins, Sale has allowed 27 earned runs on 46 hits in 33 innings pitched.

"I mean, they just have my number," said Sale of the Twins. "Sometimes it's not what you want to do, but you just get beat sometimes."

QUOTABLE

"Yeah, it seems like he's getting younger." -- Sale, on Hunter -- who hit the three-run homer off of him at the end of a 10-pitch, first-inning at-bat.

"I've been in this position before. I've been in the playoff race before. I know what it takes, and you guys are seeing it now. Stay short, get it done, and fight and battle at the plate. That's what it's all about. -- Hunter, on making his third straight start late in the season.

"We still have a job to do, and that's come in and compete. It's all we can do at this point. We are just playing for pride. Just suck it up and play as hard as you can." -- Sale, on the White Sox task over the remaining 21 games.

TWINS RUNNING THROUGH WHITE SOX

Over the last 16 head-to-head matchups, the Twins hold a 12-4 advantage and have outscored the White Sox, 92-50.

SALE'S LATEST MILESTONE

Sale's three strikeouts on Sunday give him 250 for the season in just 187 2/3 innings. He has produced the fifth individual season in White Sox history with 250 or more strikeouts. Ed Walsh has the other four (269 in 1908, 259 in '10, 255 in '11 and 254 in '12).

Sale strikes out Dozier

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Catcher Kurt Suzuki was quick to wave for manager Paul Molitor to call for a review in the sixth inning. Home-plate umpire Marty Foster ruled Micah Johnson was safe at home on Trevor Plouffe's throw home, but the call was overturned and the Twins recorded the second out of the inning.

Plouffe nabs Johnson at home

WHAT'S NEXT

Twins: Minnesota returns to Target Field for a 10-game homestand when it hosts the Tigers for a three-game series on Monday. Tyler Duffey (2-1, 4.18 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season and look for his fourth quality start in his rookie campaign. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. CT.

White Sox: John Danks will take on Oakland at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday at 7:10 p.m. CT. His last outing was a complete game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 4, so he'll have had a nine-day break in between trips to the mound. Danks is 7-3 with a 2.40 ERA lifetime against the A's.

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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.