Three players not even on the major league roster a month ago played large roles for the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Light-hitting Alexi Casilla drove in two runs, Brian Duensing pitched five strong innings on short notice and Jesse Crain pitched two of the bullpen’s four scoreless innings in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox that gave the Twins a sweep of the three-game series.
Casilla, who entered the game hitting .161, broke a 2-2 tie with a run-scoring single in the sixth and the Twins beat the White Sox for the sixth time in seven games. Minnesota has won four straight overall and remains two games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
“It was a big outing all the way around,” said Duensing, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on July 2.
Joe Crede walked to lead off the sixth, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Casilla’s two-out single off Jose Contreras (4-10), who lost his third straight.
Crain (3-4) and Matt Guerrier combined for three innings of scoreless relief before Joe Nathan pitched a nail-biting ninth for his 29th save.
Chicago had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth. Nathan struck out Chris Getz but the ball got away from catcher Joe Mauer to advance the runners. Mark Kotsay, in his first game since being acquired from Boston, flied out to end it.
Crain, who was expected to be a key component of the Twins‘ bullpen but was 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA in his first 17 2-3 innings, pitched 12 times in Rochester from June 16-July 23. Since his return, he has allowed one earned run in 5 1-3 innings.
“I got my fastball back with life, worked on my slider a lot and my mechanics are a lot better,” he said.
Jayson Nix and Carlos Quentin homered for Chicago, which has lost six of seven after entering last weekend tied with Detroit for first place. The White Sox have lost nine of their last 10 and 14 of 16 in the Metrodome. Chicago is 2-10 in its last 12 road games.
“I think it’s a typical week for the White Sox coming to Minnesota. Spend a nice day here and get your butt kicked,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I want to see these piranhas in a different lake next year.”
The White Sox head home for 10 games with New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland.
“If you can go out and play well and hold your ground against those teams it should give you some confidence,” Chicago designated hitter Paul Konerko said. “It’s pretty simple – if you’re a playoff team you get it done. If you’re not, you fall to the wayside.”
Nix and Quentin’s home runs were off Duensing, who found out less than five hours before the game that he was making his first major league start in place of Francisco Liriano, who was scratched with soreness and swelling in his left forearm.
Duensing, who had a 5.50 ERA in nine relief appearances with the Twins and was 4-6 with a 4.66 ERA in 13 starts for Rochester, allowed two earned runs and three hits in five innings. He struck out two.
“A good win for us when your starter goes out and can’t make his start, and somebody’s able to step up and do a good job for you. That’s huge. That’s why you need 25 people on your ball club,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Moved up one spot in the rotation to replace Bartolo Colon, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, Contreras struggled early and late in his 5 2-3 innings. He needed 58 pitches to get through the first two innings, but just 17 in the next two, before running into trouble in the sixth.
An RBI grounds-rule double by Casilla and run-scoring groundout by Denard Span gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the second.
“I’m playing more relaxed,” said Casilla, who was Minnesota’s Opening Day second baseman, but played 40 games in two stints at Rochester that ended July 12, to work on his hitting and the mental part of the game.
Quentin’s homer in the fifth ended an 0-for-16 slump and tied the game at 2. The home run was his first RBI since returning to the lineup on July 20 after missing 47 games with plantar fascitis in his left foot.
NOTES: White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez left the game with an apparent sprained right ankle after sliding into second base. X-rays are expected to be taken Thursday, although team trainers don’t believe it is anything more serious. … Gardenhire said the plan is to have Liriano rest for a couple of days and throw a bullpen session this weekend. If all goes well, he would likely start next Wednesday in Cleveland. … Chicago called up LHP Randy Williams from Triple-A Charlotte to replace Colon. He pitched one scoreless inning. … White Sox slugger Jim Thome missed his second straight game with a sore back. He is expected to play Thursday.