Trevor Plouffe got the scoring started and finished it off as well on Friday night as he hit two home runs and drove in three runs in the Twins 6-2 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 15,641 fans.
Erik Johnson’s command issues arose as he walked five over five innings of work. While his only run of his outing was a solo home run to Plouffe in the fourth, Johnson, who made his second start of the season on Friday, was pulling escape acts seemingly every inning. The right-hander battled his way out of jams thanks to key strikeouts and clutch defensive plays.
In the first, Avisail Garcia made a leaping grab against the wall to rob Eddie Rosario of an extra-base hit with the bases loaded to end the inning. Johnson then stranded runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings. The 25-year old threw 113 pitches on the evening but only 62 went for strikes.
“He battled,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They got him up to a high pitch count pretty quick. They were pretty patient with him. He got a bit erratic but he worked himself out of some situations. So he looked good. I think for as much traffic as was out there he did well. He responded and got to a point where he turned over the bullpen.”
Johnson, who gave up three solo home runs in his first outing with the White Sox in 2015, said he doesn’t mind giving up the those shots here and there and was more focused on working his way out of jams and keeping the Twins from having big innings.
“The first inning was a tough one,” Johnson said. “But just to build off each inning, getting out of there, just grinding one out and throwing up zeros on the board is the most important thing.”
The Sox got on the board when Adam Eaton put a charge into an Ervin Santana offering in the fifth inning, blasting one to dead center field for a two-run home run, his 13th of the season, to give the South Siders a 2-1 lead.
Just before the game, Ventura said Eaton was finding his stroke at the plate in the second half of the season because he wasn’t trying as hard to knock it out of the park every at-bat.
“He’s cut down his swing,” Ventura said. “He’s more contact. He was using the other side of the field. Early on, I felt like he was getting a little big, trying to either hit homers but his swing was a little bigger. It’s been more of a shortened down, contact swing, and I think he’s gotten more out of it.”
Santana, however, silenced the White Sox bats for the rest of the night. The right-hander finished the evening with six strikeouts over seven innings of work, only giving up six hits and two walks.
“We have to score more than two runs,” Eaton said. “Santana pitched well tonight but at the same time, you have to put some pressure on him and we didn’t. When we got guys in scoring position, we didn’t drive them in. We have to get a big hit and keep an inning going. Story of the year when we struggle. That’s baseball but it sucks when it doesn’t go your way.”
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After Daniel Webb gave up an RBI double to Torii Hunter to tie the game in the sixth, Nate Jones fell victim to Plouffe’s second solo shot of the night in the eighth, which gave the Twins a 3-2 lead.
The Twins added to their advantage in the ninth when Eduardo Escobar hit a solo home run off Zach Putnam, who was just reinstated from the disabled list, to make it 4-2, Twins. Later that frame, a wild pitch from Putnam brought in another runner and Plouffe added an RBI single to make it 6-2.
Eaton now is second on the White Sox in home runs and while that may be a good personal achievement, Ventura and his center-fielder know that there are other sluggers on the team who should be ahead of the leadoff man in that category.
“No offense to those guys, but I don’t hit too many of them,” Eaton said. “At the same time, this has been kind of a rough season for a lot of guys. It has been the story of the season, inconsistency here and there.”