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09/12/10 12:41 PM ET

Twins, White Sox ready for critical showdown

The clock is ticking on the season, and at six games back, the White Sox playoff hopes are hinging on the results of this week's American League Central showdown with the Twins. Without exaggeration, it's close to a must-win series for Chicago.

In what has become a hallmark of the final weeks of the season, Chicago gets a golden chance to face the team it is chasing this week at U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday. For these two teams that are so familiar with late-season showdowns against each other, the series will carry extra meaning.

"It's going to be a fun, fun series," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's what baseball is all about. Guys right behind you and it's September and it's games that mean something. It's what it is all about. That's why you play the game -- to be playing these types of games. They are all that for us because you are trying to win a division. But with Chicago, it's always fun."

It's Chicago's last head-to-head series against the Twins, so you can bet Ozzie Guillen and his team will have its best shot ready. And the Twins are counting on as much and aren't taking their six-game lead for granted.

"We've always been the predators, and coming into this year, I think we're the prey," Denard Span said. "I think Chicago is trying to catch us and we are where we want to be. But at the same time, we have to have that predator-like mentality. We can't let down right now, because if they go in there and sweep us, they are right back in the thick of things"

Minnesota, though, seems comfortable in the brand of baseball it has played lately. The Twins have been playing -- and winning -- close games all season, and they're going to continue to grind it out as they head toward another AL division title. The Twins are 30-21 in one-run games this season.

"This is the time of year when you have to do it," Gardenhire said. "You get all these close games, and especially when you're getting shut down by pitching, we've got to do that."

The opener of the high-stakes matchup will feature a pair of 13-game winners squaring off in John Danks for the White Sox and Francisco Liriano for the Twins. While the Twins would love a big start from Liriano, the White Sox will really be leaning on Danks for a strong start as they can't afford to give up any more ground in the standings. Danks, who will be going on short rest, has been the victim of a lack of run support and shaky defense at times this season and could have more than 13 wins. In his last start for example, Danks held the Tigers to five runs -- three of which were unearned -- in six innings to take the loss.

"It's part of the game," Danks said. "You can't fault [Mark Teahen, who made the key error leading to three unearned runs]. "You go out there and try to pick him up and do the best you can to get out of that inning. I wasn't able to make a pitch when I needed to."

Twins: Liriano on a roll
Liriano has really rounded into form lately for the Twins, allowing two earned runs or fewer in each of his last three starts. Going back farther, Liriano is 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his last 10 starts. Gardenhire attributes some of his development and success to Liriano's willingness and ability to use all of his pitches and not rely solely on his stellar slider.

"If you let him, he'll still wing a lot of sliders," Gardenhire said. "He still does. [Pitching coach Rick Anderson] goes down and talks to him all the time about using his fastball and changeup in the game more. ... So he still has to be coaxed, because he loves his slider and he has such a good one. But he's doing a lot better. He's learned to pitch a lot more."

White Sox: Quentin rests before Twins series
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen opted to start the left-handed-hitting Teahen on Sunday in place of Carlos Quentin. It wasn't because of any health issue with Quentin, as Guillen has maintained through the infielder's .236 campaign. Despite a drop in average, Guillen is happy with his 82 RBIs and was holding off Quentin until the series in Minnesota, where the White Sox will face lefties Liriano and Brian Duensing.

"I'm satisfied he's healthy all year long," said Guillen. "His job is to drive runs in and he's been doing it pretty good. I worry about how much we are going to play him, but he's having a good year. That's why we brought him here."

Worth noting
Paul Konerko continued his stellar season on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs to help the White Sox keep pace. He also secured his fifth 100-RBI season. ... Chicago is 9-12 in its last 21 games against AL Central opponents. The White Sox have never reached the playoffs with a losing record in their own division. They are currently 30-33 on the season. ... The Twins, in contrast, are 40-20 against AL Central opponents.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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