Twins overtake Sox for Wild Card lead

Twins overtake Wild Card lead

CHICAGO -- Intensity never seems to be lacking when the Twins and White Sox play each other, especially when such a series comes with both teams in the midst of the pennant chase.

But the level that the two clubs found on Friday night in their contest at U.S. Cellular Field seemed a little higher than usual.

In a back-and-forth game with plenty of dramatic storylines, the Twins found a way to secure another unbelievable win in the midst of their three-month turnaround with a 5-4 victory over the White Sox to take a half-game lead in the American League Wild Card race.

"I don't know how to describe it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think we saw one heck of a baseball game out there ... both sides played their hearts out."

It was a victory that seemed far from possible for the Twins early on in the game, when starter Brad Radke lasted just two innings and put the club in a 3-0 hole.

With the club struggling to find any kind of offense in the first five innings against White Sox starter Javier Vazquez, a victory appeared to be a daunting task.

Still, there seems to be no quit in this Twins club as it continues to roll off victories, including its 40th comeback win of the season on Friday night.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was left pondering just how to defeat a club that clearly is on a mission to reach the playoffs.

"I think they showed up to kick our butt this weekend," Guillen said. "There's no doubt in my mind. Those guys were at the top of the rail, rooting for each other. Even when they were down, they were pulling for each other. ... Look at the other side, and you're like, 'Wow.' If we don't wake up, they will sweep us in the weekend. We'd better start to wake up and start to play hard against those guys."

As it has seemed to happen all season, the Twins didn't let all the signs pointing against them spoil their comeback effort.

Instead, they found ways to deliver in situations that seemed to be completely unlikely. Nick Punto delivered his first home run of the season to start a four-run sixth inning. Torii Hunter belted a three-run homer, his fifth in seven games, with two outs in the sixth to give the Twins a one-run lead. And then Jason Bartlett, living up to the piranha title that Guillen gave the Twins' speed players, drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth on a single up the middle.

And none of it would have been possible without the bullpen managing to collectively hold the tough White Sox lineup to just one run over seven innings of work.

Still, with White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski knotting the game in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer, it seemed only right that the game wasn't over until the last out, and a unique one at that.

Closer Joe Nathan found himself in a critical situation as Scott Podsednik stood at second base and Jermaine Dye was at the plate as the go-ahead run for the Sox with two outs. Nathan got Dye to pop up a ball near the first-base line seats. First baseman Justin Morneau looked to have a shot at the ball, but two fans appeared to knock the ball out of Morneau's glove. It was deemed fan interference and it sealed the Twins' win.

For the Twins, it was just another crazy ending to a series that has often seen its fair share of unique moments.

"That's kind of wild," Hunter said of the finish. "Only in Chicago."

Not everything worked out perfectly, as it wasn't the kind of day that Radke had hoped to have in what appears will be his final start in Chicago. The right-hander has battled through so much this season to pitch, but on Friday night, it appeared that things just weren't working for the pitcher.

"I definitely could have stayed out there," Radke said. "It's kind of getting worse, but I just go out and do the best I can to help this team win."

Gardenhire didn't want to make Radke's shoulder suffer any further, and with Radke's fastball pushing just around 83 mph, it was clear that his stuff just wasn't there. Radke's next start will be pushed back to Sept. 2 to give him a few extra days of rest. The hope is that the time off will re-energize Radke for the final playoff push.

With the Twins trailing the Tigers by just five games in the AL Central, it's clear that the club wants Radke to be there down the stretch.

"This team never stops," Gardenhire said. "They just keep playing against the odds, no matter what they are."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.