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Vazquez fails to answer Ozzie's call; Twins trim ChiSox lead to 1 1/2

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Javier Vazquez has been fighting the label of big-game flopper for his entire career.

That fight will only intensify after falling flat in his latest chance with the ball in his hands and a lot on the line.

Two days after Ozzie Guillen said Vazquez hasn't been a big-game pitcher during his career, the White Sox right-hander lasted just four innings in a 9-3 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night that pulled the Twins within 1½ games in the AL Central race.

Vazquez (12-15) gave up five runs and seven hits, including a two-run homer and a triple to Jason Kubel, whose Twins practically need a sweep to position themselves for a fifth division title in seven years.

"I know Javy is a good pitcher," Guillen said. "You don't pitch that many innings and strike out 200 batters and not be a good pitcher. We didn't help him out much today."

The only bright spot for the White Sox was Ken Griffey Jr. passing Sammy Sosa for sole possession of fifth place on the career list with his 610th home run, a two-run shot off Matt Guerrier in the ninth.

Kubel went 3-for-4 with two homers in the game, going back-to-back with Delmon Young off Boone Logan in the seventh to put the game out of reach and start this crucial three-game series in emphatic fashion.

"If we lost tonight, that's almost the season right there," Kubel said. "It's one we really needed to have and it just sets up the rest of the series and gives us extra confidence after tonight."

Scott Baker (10-4) gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, easily outshining Vazquez, whose ability to come through in pressure situations has been questioned for 10 years, most recently on Sunday by his own manager.

"I don't read the newspapers," Vazquez said when asked about Guillen's comments. "I don't read the papers or anything."

Guillen said before the game Tuesday that he was trying to light a fire under Vazquez, urging him to pitch with an edge and attitude that is needed to succeed in meaningful games.

"He's one of my friends," Guillen said. "I just want Javy to be aggressive."

After he was staked to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Vazquez walked Justin Morneau to start the bottom half and then gave up the two-run shot to Kubel that nearly hit the suites high above the baggie in right field.

The Twins added three more in a fourth inning started by Kubel's triple past a diving Griffey in center field. Young had a double down the right-field line, and Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez had RBI singles to make it 5-1.

"He was behind in the count a bunch," Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "He made a mistake to Kubel and after that he never got in a rhythm."

Baker finished an impressive outing with a flourish, retiring the last seven hitters he faced, one on a line drive back to the mound off the bat of Alexei Ramirez. The ball hit Baker's glove and squirted out, but the lanky right-hander lunged forward and grabbed it with his bare hand to record the out.

"One of these two teams is going home and we don't want it to be us," Morneau said. "We'll do whatever we can to stop it."

Now things get even more interesting in a surprising division race that has been tight for two months, albeit between two teams that were projected to duke it out for third place behind Detroit and Cleveland when the season began.

"We cannot feel like we lost the pennant race," Guillen said. "We're still in first place. We can't forget about that. We got to keep fighting like we've been fighting all year long."

Notes

  • Gomez stole his 32nd base, the highest total by a Twin since Otis Nixon's 37 in 1998.
  • So much for matchups: Guillen brought lefty Clayton Richard in to start the fifth and face lefties Joe Mauer and Morneau. Mauer singled and Morneau followed with an RBI-double, his 47th on the season to set a new team record. Later in the inning, lefty Brian Buscher's sacrifice fly made it 7-1.
  • White Sox RF Jermaine Dye hit a pop fly off the roof in the ninth, but it landed in foul territory and was ruled a foul ball.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Jason Kubel (right) has plenty of reason to celebrate after hitting two dingers and a triple in the game.  (AP)
Jason Kubel (right) has plenty of reason to celebrate after hitting two dingers and a triple in the game. (AP)

Players of the Game
Minnesota

S. Baker
IP 7.0
H 5
ER 1
BB 1
K 4
Minnesota

J. Kubel
AB 4
R 3
H 3
HR 2
RBI 3
 
Chicago White Sox
Orlando Cabrera, SS4010002 .281
A.J. Pierzynski, C4000014 .280
    Paul Phillips, C0000000 .000
Jermaine Dye, RF4000010 .288
Jim Thome, DH4110010 .245
Paul Konerko, 1B3110100 .243
Ken Griffey Jr., CF3112100 .246
Alexei Ramirez, 2B4010010 .294
Dewayne Wise, LF3000002 .280
Juan Uribe, 3B2010102 .249
Totals3136234  
Batting
HR - Ken Griffey Jr. (17, Guerrier)
RBI - Ken Griffey Jr. 2 (69)
2-OUT RBI - Ken Griffey Jr. 2 (25)
Team LOB - 4
Chicago White Sox
Javier Vazquez (L,12-15) 4755131 4.46
Clayton Richard 2322100 6.25
Boone Logan 0.1222002 5.95
D.J. Carrasco 0.2000000 3.58
Horacio Ramirez 1000000 4.17
IBB - Young by Clayton Richard
Pitches-Strikes - Javier Vazquez 78-51, Clayton Richard 29-19, Boone Logan 4-4, D.J. Carrasco 5-3, Horacio Ramirez 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Javier Vazquez 7-2, Clayton Richard 3-3, Boone Logan 1-0, D.J. Carrasco 2-0, Horacio Ramirez 2-1
Batters Faced - Javier Vazquez 20, Clayton Richard 10, Boone Logan 3, D.J. Carrasco 2, Horacio Ramirez 3
Minnesota Twins
Denard Span, RF5000023 .294
Alexi Casilla, 2B5000012 .285
Joe Mauer, C4110001 .329
Justin Morneau, 1B3211100 .308
Jason Kubel, DH4333001 .276
Delmon Young, LF3232100 .293
Brian Buscher, 3B3001002 .298
Nick Punto, SS4121001 .285
Carlos Gomez, CF4021001 .258
Totals35912923  
Batting
2B - Justin Morneau (47, Richard), Delmon Young (28, Vazquez)
3B - Jason Kubel (5, Vazquez)
HR - Jason Kubel 2 (20, Vazquez, Logan), Delmon Young (10, Logan)
SF - Brian Buscher (7)
RBI - Justin Morneau (129), Jason Kubel 3 (78), Delmon Young 2 (67), Brian Buscher (47), Nick Punto (28), Carlos Gomez (57)
SB - Nick Punto (13, 2nd base off Vazquez/Pierzynski), Carlos Gomez (32, 2nd base off Vazquez/Pierzynski)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Casilla-Punto-Morneau, Punto-Morneau
Minnesota Twins
Scott Baker (W,10-4) 7511140 3.59
Jesse Crain 1000100 3.71
Matt Guerrier 1122101 5.06
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Baker 102-73, Jesse Crain 9-4, Matt Guerrier 20-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Baker 5-11, Jesse Crain 1-1, Matt Guerrier 1-2
Batters Faced - Scott Baker 26, Jesse Crain 3, Matt Guerrier 5
Game Information
Attendance - 35225
Game Time - 2:43
Temperature - 69
Umpires - Home - Bob Davidson, First Base - Alfonso Marquez, Second Base - Mike Reilly, Third Base - Andy Fletcher