Hardy thrown out at plate to end 5-4 loss

CHICAGO (AP) A shift in strategy worked out well for the Chicago White Sox.

J.J. Hardy was nailed at the plate for the final out on an unorthodox relay, and the White Sox held off the Minnesota Twins 5-4 Sunday to end a four-game losing streak.

Hardy singled with two outs against Bobby Jenks and took off when pinch-hitter Jim Thome lined a shot into the left-center field gap. With the Chicago infield drastically overshifted to the right side for Thome, Hardy figured no one would be in good shape to make the relay home.

“It was a different play,” Hardy said.

But third baseman Mark Teahen put himself in position to take left fielder Juan Pierre’s throw. Teahen’s strike to catcher A.J. Pierzynski arrived in plenty of time, and Hardy was beaten by so much that he didn’t slide or go barreling home.

“With Thome up you’ve got the guys playing shift, the third baseman is kind of playing shortstop,” Hardy said. “There’s a ball to the left-center gap, third baseman goes back to third base, so now there’s no one for the relay from Pierre. I’m running as fast as I can.

“It just turned out that Teahen goes back out there as the relay guy. It’s probably a play that no one’s ever practiced it and it worked out for them,” he said.

The speedy Pierre hurried to track down Thome’s drive, which went as a single.

“Right off the bat, we’re a little deeper in the outfield with no doubles in that situation, Thome is Hall of Famer for a reason,” Pierre said. “I just thought about getting the ball in as quick as possible. I knew they were probably going to be sending him, a ball in the gap, man on first, no-brainer to send him, and I just turned and threw.”

“I saw Teahen and chucked it to him and got it out of my hands so I couldn’t get blamed. He made the relay, but I was shocked about how far away he was from home when Teahen got the ball,” he said.

Thome had plenty of clutch hits for the White Sox during his four-year stint before signing with the Twins in the offseason, but Chicago decided not to re-sign him and moved to a more contact-hitting team.

“I was praying for Hardy to try to steal second so we can pitch around Jim to face (Nick) Punto, but it didn’t work out that way. It was an interesting game to win,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Pinch-hitter Andruw Jones singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth. Mark Buehrle (2-0) pitched eight innings and Jenks held on for his first save.

Paul Konerko hit a two-run homer, and Mark Kotsay and Gordon Beckham had solo shots for the White Sox.

Joe Mauer doubled twice for the Twins, who finished a season-opening road trip 5-2 and are set to open Target Field against the Boston Red Sox on Monday.

Buehrle settled down after the third inning for another strong start, allowing four runs and eight hits. He walked two and struck out one

Nick Blackburn (1-1) pitched 7 2-3 innings, allowing five runs, eight hits and one walk.

With two outs in the eighth inning, Blackburn gave up back-to-back singles to Konerko and Carlos Quentin. After left-hander Jose Mijares replaced Blackburn, Jones batted for Kotsay. Jones singled to left and Quentin scored, just beating Delmon Young’s throw.

After pitching seven scoreless innings in Monday’s opener against Cleveland, Buehrle gave up two runs in the first inning. With one out, Orlando Hudson singled and moved to third on Mauer’s double, and both scored on Justin Morneau’s single.

Blackburn couldn’t hold the lead in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Quentin doubled and Konerko followed with his third homer of the season to tie the score.

Denard Span led off the third with a double, and scored one out later on Mauer’s double to left. With two outs, Mauer scored on Michael Cuddyer’s single to put the Twins up 4-2.

Blackburn couldn’t hold the lead again.

Kotsay homered with two outs in the fourth to pull the White Sox within one, and Beckham tied the score on the first pitch in the sixth inning.

NOTES: Hardy made a nice pickup on Konerko’s grounder in the fourth inning to start a double play. Hardy fielded the ball behind second base and flipped the ball to second baseman Hudson, who barehanded while on the bag and threw to first to get the second out. … Jones broke out of an 0-for-7 slump with his first hit of the season.

Updated April 11, 2010