Denard Span clears bases in 8th inning as Twins nip White Sox

CHICAGO -- Denard Span and his teammates completed the first step of the Minnesota Twins' plans on Tuesday night.

J.J. Hardy hit a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning and Span had a bases-clearing double in the eighth and the Twins beat the fading Chicago White Sox 9-3 on Tuesday night.

Delmon Young homered and Joe Mauer had three hits for the AL Central-leading Twins, who increased their lead to seven games over the second-place White Sox with 18 games left for both teams.

"Today's over with. We did our job today and now we've got to come back tomorrow and try to do the same thing and hopefully kill their dreams," Span said.

The White Sox are 5-11 against the Twins this season. The White Sox had hoped for a three-game sweep which would have cut the Twins' lead to three games. Now, the best the White Sox can do is cut the Twins' lead to five games by winning the final two games of the series.

"I don't feel like we've given them anything. I feel like they have just taken it, there is some peace to that. Sometimes you just get beat," first baseman Paul Konerko.

Twins starter Francisco Liriano (14-7) pitched in and out of jams for his eighth straight victory in his last 11 starts. The left-hander allowed three runs and six hits, struck out seven and walked two.

White Sox starter John Danks (13-11) allowed four runs and nine hits.

"We've had our opportunities. We have no one to blame but ourselves for where we're at, but we're going to battle and we're not going to lay down. We put ourselves in a tough situation, but like I said this team is going to fight until the end for sure," Danks said.

Trailing 3-2 in the seventh, Young reached after getting hit by a pitch and advanced to second on Danks' wild pitch. One out later, Danny Valencia singled to center, Young was going to be stopped at third but scored after Alex Rios had the ball come out of his glove. Hardy followed with an RBI double off the wall in left-center to score Valencia from first and give the Twins a 4-3 lead.

The White Sox threatened in the seventh. Twins reliever Matt Guerrier was greeted by consecutive singles from Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulled Guerrier for Jesse Crain. Alexei Ramirez moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, then Crain walked Rios to load the bases for Konerko, who was 5 for his last 6 with two home runs. With the White Sox fans on their feet and chanting, "Paulie, Paulie," Crain struck out Konerko then ended the inning by striking out Manny Ramirez.

"They really wanted a sweep and if they did that they would have been right back in the thick of things. It's still not over. To be able to come in here and take this game has got to hurt them a little bit. It's a huge win. Probably one of the biggest of the season," Crain said.

The Twins have won nine of 10.

"We've been playing real good ball, but we still have to finish business," Span said.

Ramirez finished the game 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and one walk. He is 3 for 13 in his last four games. In 12 games with the White Sox, Ramirez has not had an extra base hit and has not driven in a run.

"I feel good at the plate, I feel comfortable. I go out there and try my best, whatever happens, happens," he said.

Ramirez was booed by the crowd after his third strikeout.

"When you don't do good, you deserve to be criticized, that's part of the game. You have to take it. In the meanwhile, we have to understand he didn't play for a little while. He got good at-bats, he just struck out. He is fighting [at] his at-bats and everybody else is too," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who referenced Ramirez spent three stints on the disabled list this season.

"If anybody is questioning if Manny can hit than you don't know the game," Konerko said.

The Twins pulled away in the eighth. Jason Kubel had an RBI double off reliever Matt Thornton and Valencia had a bases load walk off reliever J.J. Putz. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Span cleared the bases with a double after Rios misjudged the ball then had the ball knock off his glove and roll to the warning track in center field as the Twins increased its lead to 9-3.

Liriano got into trouble in the fifth, Konerko led off with a single and Liriano walked Ramirez and allowed a single to Carlos Quentin to load the bases. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a double play to score Konerko. With Ramirez at third, Liriano got Vizquel to line out to center to minimize the damage.

In the fourth inning with one out, Konerko split the right-center gap. Span in center and Kubel in right both converged and the ball got in between them as Kubel tried to make a sliding catch. The ball rolled to the wall and Konerko ended up with his first triple of the season. But Liriano rebounded by striking out Manny Ramirez and Quentin.

After the White Sox wasted a scoring opportunity, Young led off the fifth by hitting Danks' first pitch over the wall in left. Young hit Danks' hanging breaking ball for his 17th homer of the season. With two outs, Hardy doubled and Span followed with a single up the middle to score Hardy to make it 2-0.

After Pierzynski got caught looking on a questionable called third strike, Omar Vizquel doubled down the left-field line. Vizquel then stole third and Gordon Beckham walked. Pierre followed with a comebacker to Liriano, who looked back Vizquel to third and threw to first to get Pierre. With a 3-2 count, Alexei Ramirez singled up the middle to score Vizquel and Beckham.

With runners on first and second in the first inning, Liriano struck out Manny Ramirez with a a 97 mph fastball to end the inning.

Game notes
Mauer, 27, collected his 1,000th hit in the first inning. It took him 827 games to accomplish the feat. ... Guillen said closer Bobby Jenks was unavailable because of a pinched nerve and there is no timetable on his return. He last pitched on Sept. 4, at Boston.