MINNEAPOLIS (AP)Dallas Keuchel was out of whack at the start with three walks in a two-run first inning.
The pitch that truly hurt the Chicago left-hander was the one he wanted to keep way out of the strike zone against Willians Astudillo, but Minnesota’s energy man made him pay.
Astudillo hit a go-ahead, two-run homerin the sixth inning off Keuchel, and the Twins held on for a 4-3 victory to stop a four-game winning streak for the White Sox on Tuesday night.
”The pitch was three or four inches inside, so you’ve got to kind of just tip your cap to it,” said Keuchel, who allowed four runs in six innings with one strikeout.
Rookie starter Griffin Jax (3-1) gave the Twins a career-high six innings, after falling behind 3-2 on consecutive homers by Adam Engel and Jose Abreu in the third.
Jax, the first Air Force Academy graduate to appear in the major leagues, struck out a career-best 10 batters with only one walk against an intimidating White Sox offense that has homered in a season-most 12 straight games.
”You get one guy out and you turn your back and look at the plate, and then there’s another All-Star up there. I knew that going into the game that this was going to be a pretty tough lineup, but I was pretty proud of myself,” Jax said.
Said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli: ”He really personifies a lot of the things that we’re looking for in our guys, and he handles himself very, very well.”
Keuchel (7-6) was left with a decidedly different feeling, after falling to 1-4 with a 5.72 ERA and 10 homers allowed in his last seven turns. He walked four in six innings, and three of those runners scored, including Miguel Sano before Astudillo’s big hit. The burly utilityman nicknamed La Tortuga dropped to one knee and muscled a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers.
”You’re really never sure what he’s going to do,” Baldelli said. ”Sometimes he does more damage on pitches six inches above the zone or in or down. You really don’t know.”
Said Keuchel: ”That was just kind of the setup pitch. I wouldn’t take that pitch back.”
Astudillo, playing third base for Josh Donaldson, later caught a line drive smashed by Abreu and whipped a throw to first base to double up Tim Anderson and end the eighth as he skipped off the field with his infectious enthusiasm.
”That’s not even a baserunning mistake, because the ball was hit so hard,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. ”That was just a tough break for us and a good break for them.”
The White Sox (67-47) whiffed on their opportunity to move a season-high 22 games above .500, a mark they haven’t reached since Sept. 13, 2006, but there’s not much for them to worry about with a lead on Cleveland that was at 10 1/2 games at the beginning of the day. Now that they’re nearly fully healthy again, their biggest challenge will be to stay sharp for the next two months in lieu of a pennant race in this division full of renovation projects.
Luis Arraez had an RBI single and Alex Colome pitched the ninth for his sixth save for the Twins, who improved to 5-13 against the AL Central leaders this year. They have been outscored 123-70 by the White Sox, who are 37-24 against division opponents.
Arraez has hit in 21 of his last 23 games, batting .423 since July 4 for the best average in baseball among players with a minimum of 70 plate appearances.
White Sox: CF Luis Robert reported no trouble after his return from a torn hip flexor on Monday following an 85-game absence. He’s slated for a day off on Wednesday.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton, who has missed 42 games because of a broken left pinkie, is in the final stretch of his recovery and ”in a good state of mind.” The team has yet to decide whether to send him on a rehab assignment. ”If they want me to go, I’ll go. If they don’t, great,” Buxton said. … Donaldson was in the lineup as the DH for the first time in four games due to a hamstring strain. He’s slated to be back at 3B on Friday.
White Sox: RHP Lance Lynn (10-3, 2.04), the major league ERA leader, takes the mound on Wednesday afternoon. He’s 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts against the Twins this season.
Twins: RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 4.99) pitches in the series finale. The rookie is 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in four turns against the White Sox this year.
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