Win is ugly, but Garland just brilliant

Tribune staff reporter

With the shadow of Johan Santana lurking over the White Sox, Jon Garland pitched with a firm presence Saturday night.

Garland limited Minnesota to five hits over 72/3 innings to earn his 14th victory as the Sox won 4-1 at the Metrodome.

The victory gave the Sox some needed momentum heading into Sunday's showdown against Santana while cutting Detroit's lead in the American League Central to 51/2 games and expanding their wild-card lead over the Twins to two games.

"It's a big win," said Rob Mackowiak, who launched a 417-foot, upper-deck home run off Brad Radke in the fourth. "Anytime against Radke, and knowing Santana is pitching Sunday isn't going to be an easy battle.

"Garland threw a heck of a game for us, and we scrapped a few runs on some errors. It was an ugly game, but it paid off."

Garland (14-4) continued his comeback after what he had described as a dead-arm period early in the season, when he had no command of his sinker or changeup. He has allowed one earned run over his last 142/3 innings and has won 10 of his last 12 decisions in lowering his ERA from 6.19 to 4.73.

"We needed this one, for the momentum of the team," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If we lose two in a row and [again Sunday], all of a sudden you don't feel the same way."

Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi's throwing error in the third set up the Twins' only run. After Nick Punto's RBI single, Garland retired 14 consecutive batters until Jason Tyner singled with one out in the eighth.

Garland was pulled after Luis Castillo's two-out single, but Matt Thornton quieted the rally by inducing Punto to pop out.

"I felt really good with the sinker at that point," Garland said. "As long as I keep that pitch down, even when I give up hits, I'm not going to be hurt too bad. I've got to tip my cap to the defense for making plays."

The Sox scored their first two runs on errors. Then they snapped the Minnesota bullpen's scoreless streak at 141/3 innings in the eighth when A.J. Pierzynski managed to escape a rundown, during which Jim Thome scored.

The Sox might need similar breaks Sunday. Santana (14-5) has the best home record (8-0) of any major-league pitcher this season. He hasn't lost at the Metrodome since Aug. 6, 2005, and is 12-0 in his last 19 home starts.

Santana's success isn't limited to home games. The Twins are 21-5 in his starts this season, and he's 18-1 with a 1.80 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 21 August starts since 2002.

Against the Sox, Santana has won six of his last seven decisions, with the lone loss April 21. The Sox won 7-1, but Santana's only blemish in seven innings was a two-run home run to Thome.

"We've tried a lot of different things," hitting coach Greg Walker said. "Swinging at strikes, that's easier said than done. His changeup has so much deception. He throws hard enough that you have to honor it.

"There's no easy way to beat him. You've just got to hope he's not quite as sharp, and he's had stretches this year where he hasn't been at his best. And even when he's not at his best, he's [often] better than anyone else."

Walker said the best way to beat a pitcher of Santana's caliber is to blank the Twins.

That assignment falls to Javier Vazquez (11-7), who is 1-3 lifetime against Minnesota.

"When you face a guy like Santana, you can't give up much," Vazquez said. "Your concentration has to be a little better than usual."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad