Plouffe homers twice, Twins keep heat on Rangers for wild card
CHICAGO — Trevor Plouffe picked a perfect time to rediscover his home run swing.
Plouffe hit a pair of solo homers, including a tiebreaking shot in the eighth, to lead the Minnesota Twins to a 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
Eduardo Escobar added a solo shot in the Twins’ three-run ninth as Minnesota remained one game behind Texas for the second American League wild card.
Plouffe hadn’t gone deep in 20 games and not since Aug. 17 at New York. He struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning in this one, but then launched his 19th and 20th homers.
The second one barely made it into the White Sox bullpen, but put the Twins ahead 3-2.
”I just wanted to come through,” Plouffe said. ”I was upset after that first at-bat when I had the bases loaded with one out and didn’t get the job done.
”After that I’m just trying to have good at bats and today I was able to to hit a few balls out of the park.”
Plouffe also had a single in the ninth to give him three hits and three RBIs. Plouffe’s second homer came off Nate Jones (1-2), the second Chicago reliever, and gave the Twins infielder his third career multi-homer game.
”He’s become a pretty good pro,” manager Paul Molitor said. ”It’s been a little bit lean for him. but 20’s a nice number.”
Ervin Santana came through with his third straight strong start, allowing two runs, on Adam Eaton’s 13th homer in the fifth, through seven innings, while scattering six hits and striking out six. In his last three outings, Santana (5-4) has allowed just three earned runs in 22 innings and struck out 27.
”I just want to get one out at a time and one pitch at a time and it works,” Santana said.
Santana got help from 40-year-old right fielder Torii Hunter, who threw out two runners in a game for the first time since September 2012. Hunter also had two hits, including an RBI double.
”It’s been awhile since somebody tested (his arm), so it was a lot of fun that they were testing it today and I was able to let loose and throw,” Hunter said.
Chicago’s Erik Johnson labored in his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on Sept. 1, but allowed just one run on four hits in a no-decision. He won at Kansas City on Sunday, but struggled with control in this one.
The righty walked five, but wriggled out of serious trouble thanks to six strikeouts and some good defense.
Johnson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first without allowing any runs when Avisail Garcia jumped high against the right-field fence and caught Eddie Rosario’s liner for the third out.
Plouffe lined his first homer to left to lead off the fourth and put Minnesota ahead 1-0. Hunter threw Garcia out at the plate to end the bottom half of the inning when he tried to score from second on Rob Brantly’s single.
Eaton’s two run shot to center with one out in the fifth moved Chicago in front, 2-1, but Hunter’s RBI double in sixth tied it at 2-all.
He had never hit more than three homers in any of his three previous seasons in the majors.
The Twins are in the thick of the wild-card hunt after finishing 70-92 last season. Did Molitor foresee that improvement at the start of the season?
”I wouldn’t have discarded it as folly,” he said. ”But being a part of the team last year, 70-92 didn’t seem a very accurate portrayal of the way we played the majority of the year.
”Between the (AL wild-card) scenario, the development of young players and veterans showing leadership, it’s just something that that’s transpired over the course of 135 games.”
White Sox LHP John Danks took the field for pregame warmups wearing a full, bright-green leprechaun costume, complete with a hat.
Danks was paying up on a bet he made with White Sox radio announcer Ed Farmer on the Texas-Notre Dame football game last week. Danks, a native of Austin and fan of Texas football, bet on the Longhorns. They lost 38-3 to the Fighting Irish.
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes (back inflammation) may rejoin Minnesota’s rotation next Tuesday against Detroit, manager Paul Molitor said before Friday’s game. Hughes (10-8) threw a 45-pitch simulated game on Wednesday and will toss a bullpen session on Saturday. He hasn’t pitched since a lopsided loss at Cleveland on Aug. 9.
C Kurt Suzuki started after leaving Wednesday’s game at Kansas City in the 10th inning with a bruised knee, suffered when the Royals Jarrod Dyson collided with him at home plate. Suzuki said he has no structural damage and that his ”contusion” is being treated with ice and electical stimulation. … The Twins activated right-handed reliever J.R. Graham (shoulder inflammation) from the disabled list prior to Friday night’s game.
Minnesota left-hander Tommy Milone (8-4, 3.54) faces Chicago lefty Jose Quintana (8-10, 3.60 ERA) on Saturday night in the second game of the series. Milone is 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA in three starts against the White Sox this season.