MINNEAPOLIS — Tony La Russa called this “a big game for us.”
Lucas Giolito came up really big.
The White Sox All-Star and Opening Day right-hander, showing more of the fleeting form that earned him the title of staff “ace,” Giolito struck out a season high 11 over eight excellent innings of one-run ball, and the Sox held on to defeat the Twins 2-1 to take an important, eventful series against the defending AL Central champions.
Defeating the Twins (14-27) for the fifth time in six games, the first-place Sox (26-16) got a hustling RBI single with two outs in the fifth inning from Adam Eaton that scored Leury Garcia and an RBI single off the left field wall by Garcia in the sixth to erase a 1-0 Twins lead. Garcia’s single scored Jake Lamb, who had doubled leading off the inning against Twins starter Matt Shoemaker.
The Twins only run against Giolito (3-4, 4.35 ERA) came on Nelson Cruz’s home run in the third. After that, Giolito did not allow a hit, facing the minimum thanks to a double play after Jorge Polanco leading off the sixth. First baseman Andrew Vaughn dove to his right on that one, flipped to shortstop Tim Anderson while on his knees and went back to first to complete the DP.
Giolito walked three and allowed two hits. He was 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA over his previous five starts.
Closer Liam Hendriks, on the mound when the Twins walked off their 5-4 victory Tuesday night, got the final three outs. Hendriks struck out Polanco, got Cruz on a pop fly to short left and struck out Max Kepler to record his ninth save.
The Sox won the first game of the series 16-4, the last run coming on a home run by Yermin Mercedes against position player Willians Astudillo on a 3-0 count. Mercedes had been given a take sign but swung anyway, prompting La Russa to apologize to the Twins for breaking old-school sportsmanship protocol, a “we’re sorry” that wasn’t enough for Mercedes to get thrown at Tuesday.
The Sox are off Thursday before completing their road trip with three games in New York against the Yankees.