CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Twins started their 10-game road trip that will determine if they make the playoffs with a sweet sweep.
"This was a huge series for us. It's as close to a must-win situation as you can be in," Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer said after the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 8-6 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep.
"To be able to come into Chicago and pick up three is all we would have asked for," he added.
The Twins stayed on the heels of first-place Detroit in the AL Central with their ninth victory in the last 10 games. Nick Punto drove in three runs and Brian Duensing won his fifth consecutive decision.
Detroit beat Cleveland 11-3 on Wednesday and leads the Twins by 2½ games. Minnesota is off Thursday before starting a three-game series in Kansas City. The Tigers begin a three-game series Friday against the White Sox, who have lost seven of eight.
The Tigers and Twins begin a four-game series in Detroit on Monday.
"Our goals now [are] to go to Kansas City and win a series there and go to Detroit and see what happens," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"This is the reason we play baseball. Anytime you play baseball in September, it means something," Punto said. "That's what it's all about. Anytime you sweep a big league team, that's pretty good, let alone on the road."
Jermaine Dye, who entered the game in a 12-for-93 slump, had two homers for Chicago, the first breaking a 58 at-bat homerless streak.
"It took batting stance No. 10 for me to break out of it for a day," Dye said.
Duensing (5-1), who is 5-0 in his last seven starts, entered the game with a 13 1/3-innings scoreless streak spanning his two previous outings. He allowed a run in the fourth on Carlos Quentin's two-out RBI single that cut Minnesota's lead to 5-1.
Duensing wasn't sharp after the early innings. He gave up nine hits and four runs -- three earned -- in 5 2/3 innings. Joe Nathan, the Twins' fourth reliever, pitched a shaky ninth for his 44th save, hitting a batter and walking Paul Konerko before getting Alexei Ramirez on a popup to end it.
Punto hit a two-out, two-run RBI single off Carlos Torres in a three-run seventh that included an error on Chicago shortstop Ramirez and made it 8-4. Dye connected for his 27th of the season in the bottom of the eighth, another two-run shot, this one off Bobby Keppel.
The Twins, who scored 23 runs in the three-game series, knocked out Chicago ace Mark Buehrle (12-10) after 3 1/3 innings. Buehrle, 1-7 in 12 starts since pitching a perfect game on July 23, gave up eight hits and was charged with five runs, four earned.
The White Sox were tied for first after Buehrle's gem and haven't been back. And now they're on the verge of elimination.
"It's always disappointing when you look up and you lose games and you have an under-.500 record and you have no chance of going to the postseason," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It's very frustrating and it all stinks. ... Just losing gets old after a while. You try to do everything in your power, but it seems like something bad got in this team."
Cabrera, the White Sox's shortstop during a division title-winning season a year ago, continued to hurt his former team. He had two hits and an RBI, giving him five for the series.
Cabrera had an RBI single in the third and raced home on Cuddyer's run-scoring single for a 3-0 lead in the third.
- Twins CF Denard Span was out of the lineup a second consecutive game after being hit in the helmet with a pitch Monday night. He could return Friday.
- It was Minnesota's first three-game sweep at U.S. Cellular Field since 2006.