Baker rebounds, Twins keep early winning streak going
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Twins are not built on just fundamentals and speed anymore.
Jason Kubel hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning and Scott Baker pitched seven sharp innings, leading the Minnesota Twins to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.
Kubel hit the Twins' 10th home run in six games, and Minnesota has used the long ball to help win its fifth straight game.
"We've got some guys who can put it in the seats. We try to run around a little bit. but it's pretty easy when you hit it in the seats and you get to jog around," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's all about these guys putting good swings on the ball. We can hit the ball out of the ballpark but we also have to execute."
Trailing 1-0 in the seventh inning, Jim Thome drew a leadoff walk against his former team. Thome was replaced for pinch-runner Alexi Casilla, but the move became unnecessary when Kubel connected on White Sox starter Freddy Garcia's 0-1 fastball and drove it into the center field seats for his first homer of the season.
"I haven't had any good feelings at all up until my first hit today, which I got a little bit lucky on. I've got a lot more confidence in myself and hopefully it carries over. I'm just happy it worked out the way it did today," Kubel said. "I got lucky (on the double), got a better feeling for myself and then I got a good pitch to hit and didn't miss it this time."
Jesse Crain got two outs in the eighth and stranded Mark Teahen at second, and Jon Rauch pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his fourth save in four opportunities.
Baker (1-1) rebounded after struggling through only 4 2-3 innings on opening day. On Saturday, he allowed one run on five hits.
He struck out three and walked one.
"I made a couple of mechanical adjustments. I think I did enough between my starts to get a feel for where I needed to be mechanically to really throw the ball down and throw some good breaking pitches. That's always the test for me, if I'm not on top of the ball and driving pitches down my breaking pitches aren't sharp," said Baker.
Baker said his success against the White Sox is predicated on keeping the White Sox first two hitters off the bases.
"If you can keep (Juan) Pierre and (Gordon) Beckham off the bases, you have a pretty good shot at success. They've got a good lineup but if you keep those two guys off you'll be all right," Baker said.
Teahen doubled in the only White Sox run, who lost for the fourth straight game.
In his first start of the season, Garcia (0-1) made one mistake, to Kubel. He allowed just two runs on three hits. He struck out four and walked five.
"The good thing about this is I am very excited how Freddy threw the ball. I can go home and have a nice dinner and not think about it," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "A lot of people had doubts on Freddy, including myself on the way he pitched in Spring Training. I think Freddy Garcia proved everybody wrong. Freddy showed one more time, when the lights on you better beat him."
Five games into the season, the White Sox are 5 for 35 with runners in scoring position and are batting .186 on the season.
"I think a lot of guys are pressing, a lot of guys are trying to do too much," Guillen said. "I think I saw a couple of guys try to hit the ball out of the ballpark when they should be pleased and happy with a base hit. I think everybody wants to be a hero. I think that's the wrong approach at the plate."
The Twins had a chance to tack onto their lead in the eighth. They loaded the bases with no outs against reliever Randy Williams, but Scott Linebrink came in and got Michael Cuddyer to hit a soft liner to second baseman Beckham, he struck out Casilla and Kubel ended the inning with a groundout to first.
A.J. Pierzynski led off the fifth with a liner to center, and Twins center fielder Denard Span tried to make a sliding catch, but the ball got by Span and allowed Pierzynski to go into second for his first double of the season. After Alexei Ramirez moved Pierzynski over on a groundout, Teahen broke an 0 for 10 start with a double to the center field warning track to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead.
NOTES: After a pinch-hitting Friday night, Thome was in the starting lineup against his former team. He was 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a walk. ... RHP Carl Pavano will start in the Twins home opener at the new Target Field on Monday. "For Pavano to get this is nice. It's a reward for him wanting to be a part of this ballclub," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.