Polanco lifts Twins, continues assault on White Sox
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco doesn’t have a good explanation for why he hits so well against the White Sox. Tuesday was just another example, though, that Polanco has thrived when facing Chicago’s pitchers.
Polanco has hit nine home runs this season. Seven of those have come against Chicago, including two in Minnesota’s 6-4 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday.
“He’s feeling good about his game,” manager Paul Molitor said of Polanco. “He made some nice defensive plays, too. As of late, he’s been an important part of our overall team the way he’s swinging the bat.”
Polanco’s bat was one of several highlights for Minnesota in the series-opening victory.
Byron Buxton continued his hot August with an early RBI, and Eduardo Escobar drove in a pair of runs to back a strong start from right-hander Ervin Santana.
Minnesota (68-63) won for the third time in four games to keep its hold on the second American League wild-card spot.
Polanco went deep from both sides of the plate Tuesday for his first multi-homer game of his career. He became the fifth player in Twins history to hit home runs from each side of the plate in a game, joining Roy Smalley, Chili Davis, Ryan Doumit and Kennys Vargas.
Despite hitting six home runs in the last nine games, Polanco doesn’t view himself as a power hitter.
“I just think I’m hitting the ball pretty good,” Polanco said.
Santana (14-7) allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings while striking out seven. He benefitted from solid defense by Polanco, who ended the second inning with an impressive play to retire Tim Anderson.
“He’s doing everything right now,” Santana said of Polanco.
James Shields (2-5) exited after giving up four runs in five innings. It was the first time Shields earned a decision in three starts against the Twins this season.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Shields was feeling a bit under the weather during Tuesday’s start but battled through it.
“In the first inning, I just started getting kind of hot,” Shields said. “But no excuses, I should have pitched better.”
Jose Abreu went 4-for-4 for Chicago and drove in two runs.
After the White Sox cut Minnesota’s lead to 5-3 with a pair of runs in the seventh, including an RBI double by Abreu, Polanco’s second homer of the night gave the Twins’ bullpen a bit more cushion.
Matt Belisle allowed a run in the ninth inning but still picked up his fifth save of the season.
Minnesota took the lead on a pair of first-inning runs. Eddie Rosario’s tapper back to the mound could have ended the inning, but Shields’ throw to second base was wide. Chicago was only able to get one out from the potential double-play ball, with Brian Dozier scoring from third on the play.
“I make a throw in the first inning, we get out of there with no runs and it’s a whole different ballgame,” Shields said. “I have to do a better job of throwing the ball to second base and getting the double play.”
One batter later, Buxton delivered a sharp RBI single to center that scored Rosario to make it 2-0. Rosario had advanced to second during Buxton’s at-bat on a wild pitch. The RBI was Buxton’s 22nd of August — 58 percent of the 38 runs he has driven in all season.
The Twins added to their lead in the third inning when Polanco took Shields deep for a solo homer to right field. Polanco’s blast just cleared the right field fence, putting Minnesota up 3-0. Minnesota’s lead grew to 4-0 when Escobar’s fourth-inning single drove in Max Kepler.
NOTES: The Twins announced that they would host the retirement press conference for former closer Joe Nathan on Friday. Nathan, 42, pitched in 10 total games last season with the Cubs and Giants. He spent the prime of his career in Minnesota, tallying 260 saves and four All-Star appearances in seven seasons with the Twins. ... Twins CF Byron Buxton was named the American League Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday. Buxton batted .333 in 33 at-bats while hitting five home runs and driving in 10 runs during eight games with the Twins last week. It was the first AL Player of the Week honor of Buxton’s career. ... White Sox RHP Reynaldo Lopez threw another bullpen session Tuesday as he works his way back from a strained back. Manager Rick Renteria said Lopez “has been doing really well” and noted the club hopes to see Lopez back on the active roster soon.