Twins-White Sox Preview

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox expected to battle for

the AL Central title, but instead they’re trying to stay out of the

division cellar.

The struggling rivals open their season series with a two-game

set in Chicago beginning Tuesday night.

Despite high expectations for both clubs, Minnesota (9-18) and

Chicago (11-19) begin this short series with the White Sox a

half-game up on the last-place Twins.

Not everyone thinks the standings will remain that way.

“This is going to be a five-team race,” White Sox manager Ozzie

Guillen told the team’s official website. “I don’t expect

Minnesota, the White Sox and Detroit to (stay) where they are. I

expect Cleveland and Kansas City to stay where they are. … I

think it’s going to be a pretty good pennant race.”

Guillen’s team snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-2 win

over Baltimore on Monday. Paul Konerko homered twice and drove in

four runs as Chicago won for just the fourth time in 19 games.

The White Sox averaged 2.4 runs and hit .206 in their previous

18.

“Hopefully this win can get the vibe a little bit better in

here,” Konerko said.

Minnesota has dropped six in a row, getting swept by Tampa Bay

and Kansas City. The Twins have been outscored 54-14 during the

losing streak while hitting .179.

“We keep believing it’s going to turn around,” Justin Morneau

said after a 10-3 loss to the Royals on Sunday. “We’re going to

have to make our own luck. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

Minnesota hasn’t lost seven in a row since an eight-game skid

July 5-13, 2003.

Ending the losing streak won’t be easy if Francisco Liriano

(1-4, 9.13 ERA) continues to struggle on the mound. After going

14-10 with a 3.62 ERA last season, Liriano may be in danger of

losing his rotation spot to Kevin Slowey.

Liriano has one quality start in five outings this season, and

hasn’t made it through the fifth inning in two starts. He gave up

seven runs and walked four in three-plus innings of an 8-2 loss to

Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to make excuses. I just had a bad night,” Liriano

said. “Too many walks and trying to go deeper in games, that’s just

not working for me right now.”

The left-hander is 3-3 with a 5.51 ERA against the White Sox,

but hasn’t lost to them in his last five starts, going 3-0 with a

4.15 ERA.

Edwin Jackson (2-3, 5.86), who is scheduled to take the mound

for Chicago, is also struggling with his control. He has a 12.10

ERA and nine walks in his last two starts.

Jackson gave up six runs and walked five in four-plus innings of

a 12-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday, his third straight

defeat.

Facing the Twins may not help. The right-hander is 1-3 with a

7.76 ERA in five starts and three relief appearances against

Minnesota.

Jim Thome, who was held out of the Twins lineup Sunday with

overall stiffness, is 8 for 13 with two homers against Jackson.

Morneau, who homered Sunday for the first time since July 6, is 6

for 14 with a home run.

The Twins won 13 of 18 against the White Sox last year, taking

seven of nine in Chicago.