MINNESOTA 9, CHICAGO 2 IN MINNESOTA
Date: Tuesday, September 24.
Batting stars: Chuck Knoblauch was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Greg Gagne was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs. Kirby Puckett was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, a stolen base (his eleventh), two runs, and three RBIs. Kent Hrbek was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his nineteenth.
Pitching stars: Scott Erickson pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on one hit and three walks and striking out four. He threw 88 pitches. Mark Guthrie pitched two shutout innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.
Opposition stars: Wilson Alvarez pitched 5.1 innings of relief, giving up one run on two hits and two walks and striking out two. Dan Pasqua was 1-for-2 with a two-run homer, his sixteenth.
The game: The Twins scored early and often. With one out in the first, Knoblauch singled and scored from first on a Puckett double. Gene Larkin delivered a two-out RBI single to make it 2-0 Twins. In the second, again with one out, the Twins got consecutive singles from Gagne, Dan Gladden, and Knoblauch to make it 3-0. A ground out scored one run and Hrbek delivered a two-run homer to put the Twins up 6-0. The game was pretty much over at that point.
They played the full nine innings, of course. The Twins added a run in the fourth when Gagne singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a pair of infield grounders. Meanwhile, the White Sox did not even get a baserunner until the sixth, when Craig Grebeck walked. In the seventh, Robin Ventura walked and, with one out, Pasqua hit a two-run homer, Chicago's first hit of the game, to make the score 7-2.
The Twins added two more runs in the ninth. Scott Leius singled, was bunted to second, and went to third on a wild pitch. With two out Gladden walked, and RBI singles by Knoblauch and Puckett followed.
WP: Erickson (19-7). LP: Jack McDowell (17-10). S: None.
Notes: Larkin started in right field in place of Shane Mack. Junior Ortiz was behind the plate in place of Brian Harper.
Puckett raised his average to .321. Erickson's ERA went to 3.32.
This was pretty much the White Sox' last stand. They were already eight games out, so they had to sweep to have any kind of chance at the division, and even then it would have been a long shot. They had their ace, Black Jack McDowell, on the mound. And the Twins came out and made him look like a bush leaguer. His line was 1.2 innings, six runs, seven hits, one walk, and one strikeout. This wasn't the official clincher, but it was officially just a matter of time at this point.
With the Twins leading 7-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Leius led off with a single and Ortiz followed with a sacrifice bunt. That would seem like a huge violation of an unwritten rule. I don't know if anyone cared--enforcement of unwritten rules is pretty random and capricious. But I would think that someone at least made mention of it.
This was, at the time, a rare good start for Erickson. He would continue to pitch well the rest of the season, although the rest of the season obviously was not very long.
Record: The Twins were 91-60, in first place in the American League West, nine games ahead of Chicago. The magic number was three.
In the East, Toronto won and Boston did not play, so the Blue Jays' lead went up to two games.