Sox ready for second-place Twins

Sox ready for second-place Twins

DETROIT -- Mark Buehrle stood in front of his locker following Sunday's 6-4 loss to Detroit and talked about the nerves he felt going into Monday's series-opening start at the Metrodome.

He couldn't eat. He couldn't sleep. His stomach was upset for the biggest start of his career.

Clearly, Buehrle was exaggerating for comical effect. After all, he started and saved a game during the 2005 World Series. But with the White Sox protecting a 2 1/2-game lead over the Twins in the American League Central, there's no doubt the South Siders face another big series on this important 10-game road trip. Yes, it's big, even with 59 games remaining as of Monday.

For those who don't believe these contests against the Tigers and Twins are significant, just read what Buehrle had to seriously say about his team's reaction to Friday's ninth-inning victory courtesy of a rally coming with two outs at Comerica Park.

"That first game here, when [Jermaine Dye] hit the [ninth inning] home run, it's the most excited I've seen our dugout since the [2005] World Series," Buehrle said. "These are big games, and we want to win them."

Buehrle looks to be the right man for the White Sox to have on the mound at the Metrodome, carrying with him a 21-11 career record against the Twins, including a 10-5 mark in Minneapolis. Those 21 wins are the most against any other opponent for the left-hander.

Ron Gardenhire's crew comes into the series following back-to-back wins. They also have a fleet-footed, fundamentally sound team perfectly suited for the Metrodome.

"They are a good team, no matter where it is," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Metrodome or not. They are just a good team. They have good pitching and they don't make mistakes. They use the field well. They put the ball in play and put pressure on you."

"I never had any doubt in my mind that team was good," added Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of the Twins. "I looked at the team during Spring Training and how they are going to play, what ammunition [they use] to beat you, and they do two things: They run [and] they don't beat themselves. And they have a few players there who are way underrated."

Guillen pointed to obvious underrated choices from Minnesota such as Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, who have emerged as two of the game's top young players, but still don't receive their proper share of national attention. But Minnesota isn't about the individuals, as much as the team concept -- much like the current White Sox.

According to Pierzynski, when he played for the Twins from 1998 to 2003, they always believed they had a better team than the White Sox -- if not the greater talent. That concept could account for the South Siders' 27-40 struggles at the Metrodome over the past eight years, including two losses there on April 29 and 30 of this year.

Along with being one of Major League Baseball's truly outstanding managers, Guillen has proven himself to be a bit of a diamond psychic. He talked about the good feeling concerning his team going into its current 10-game road stretch, and Guillen's gut feeling was rewarded by a series victory at Comerica Park.

The hope is for the same sort of showing at the Metrodome.

"There's one thing about it. I think these players take this road trip like any other road trip," Guillen said. "That's a good way to approach [it]. They take it one day at a time and go out and do whatever they can. No matter what we do here, we have two months to go, and we have to go out there and the biggest thing is to stay healthy. But I like the way we play right now."

"We would like to sweep them or go 3-1," Buehrle added. "But if we go to Minnesota and win 2 of 4, 2-2 is pretty good on the road. We just need to win series from here on out."

Pitching matchup
CWS: LHP Mark Buehrle (8-8, 3.56 ERA)
Pitching on just three days' rest for the fourth time in his career, Buehrle was as dominant as he has been since the start of June. The southpaw allowed one run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking none in his second straight winning decision. He improved to 6-2 over his last nine starts, and 7-3 in his last 13, picking up his 10th career victory against Texas. Buehrle has a 1-1 record with a 5.27 ERA in two starts this season against the Twins, but has not yet pitched at the Metrodome in 2008. Buehrle has a career record of 21-11 against the Twins, more wins than he has against any other opponent. He is 10-5 in Minneapolis.

MIN: RHP Kevin Slowey (6-7, 4.41 ERA)
Some struggles in the latter innings turned a good start against the Yankees into a less than pleasing one for the young right-hander. Slowey gave up three runs in his final one-third of an inning, including a two-run homer to Bobby Abreu. The homer by the Yankees' right fielder was the 13th long ball that Slowey has given up in 15 starts this season. Keeping the ball inside the park has been a challenge for the pitcher, one he'll have to improve upon as he faces the White Sox for the third time this season. He is 0-2 against Chicago in two starts in 2008, having allowed 11 earned runs over just eight innings.

Tidbits
Guillen spoke of dropping Paul Konerko lower in the order against Minnesota, after the team captain finished 1-for-4 on Sunday, leaving his average at .216. "I might hit him lower to relax him more," Guillen said. "Paulie is a big part of this team, and I'm not going to give up on him." ... The White Sox earned Guillen's praise for their weekend effort, aside from the three strikeouts against Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning on Sunday. Nick Swisher, Alexei Ramirez and Juan Uribe all chased high fastballs on full counts. "I don't think the last inning we had good at-bats," Guillen said. "We were swinging at bad pitches. Rodney throws 97 or 98 mph, and when you swing up there, not too many will catch up, up there." ... Jim Thome is batting .389 with seven doubles, four home runs and 15 RBIs in his last 15 games ... The White Sox are 29-15 against the AL Central, including a 7-4 mark against the Twins ... The White Sox outfield leads the AL with 68 home runs.

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Up next
• Tuesday: White Sox (Clayton Richard, 0-0, 9.00) at Twins (Glen Perkins, 7-3, 4.08), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: White Sox (Gavin Floyd, 10-6, 3.57) at Twins (Livan Hernandez, 10-7, 5.31), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Thursday: White Sox (John Danks, 8-4, 3.18) at Twins (Scott Baker, 7-3, 3.38), 7:10 p.m. CT

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.