Bonser Solid As Twins Take Game One

In this edition of Twins Inside Pitch, the Twins take Game one of a very important series against the White Sox. Boof Bonser has a solid showing on the mound, and fellow rookie Pat Neshek picks up his third win of the season. All that and so much more.

For the second night in a row Friday, the Twins found hope for the health and the depth of their starting rotation because of an impressive performance by a rookie.

This time it was Boof Bonser, who made his major league debut in May, taking Friday's series opener against the wild-card-leading White Sox one out deep into the sixth inning before handing off to the top bullpen in the majors for a 6-3 victory.

Bonser took a 3-2 lead into the sixth before Jim Thome's lead-off double in the sixth led to the tying run.

Still, for a team still reeling from the loss of Francisco Liriano (12-3) to the disabled list with elbow inflammation, Bonser's outing was a promising sign of a possible answer to the questions at the end of the Twins' youthful rotation. It was the second straight strong start for Bonser, who also pitched into the sixth inning last week against Toronto.

And it was the second straight night the Twins got improved performances from a rookie, with Matt Garza making a leaps-and-bounds improvement Thursday over his major-league debut six days earlier.

Neither has a win to show for his previous two outings, but both have earned enough faith from the manager and pitching coach to continue getting the ball in the next few weeks -- with manager Ron Gardenhire liking enough of what he has seen to decide against skipping a spot in the rotation with off-days scheduled the next two weeks.

REPLAY: Torii Hunter's solo home run in the sixth inning drove home the go-ahead run, and Justin Morneau added a pair of two-out RBIs to run his season total to 106 as the Twins beat the White Sox 7-3 in the opener of a big weekend series at the Metrodome, closing Chicago's lead in the AL wild-card standings to one game.

Boof Bonser, the rookie making his 10th career start (all this season), retired the first seven batters he faced and took a 3-2 lead into the sixth before giving up another run and leaving after 5 1/3 innings. The Twins improved to 4-4 on their longest homestand of the season, with two games left.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • 3B Nick Punto, who missed the entire three-game series against Cleveland this week because of a bruised left knee, returned to the lineup Friday against the White Sox -- as promised -- and went 3-for-5. It extended his hitting streak to seven games and bumped his batting average since the All-Star break up to .348.

  • OF Shannon Stewart, who's been on the disabled list since July 16 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, returned to the Twin Cities for the weekend to undergo an examination with team doctors on the foot. He's scheduled to return home to Miami Monday and increase his rehab work on the foot. The team does not expect him to return this season, but Stewart, who becomes a free agent after the season, said he's holding out hope for a possible return near the end of the season.

  • SS Jason Bartlett went 0-for-4 Friday to extend his hitless streak to seven straight at-bats. Big deal? Only enough to lower his league-leading average since the All-Star break to .385. He was at .398 since the break entering Friday's game.

  • OF Jason Kubel, who has played sparingly since the All-Star break because of sore knees, batted as the Twins' DH on Friday, and manager Ron Gardenhire said he'll continue in that role through the weekend against Chicago. He had an RBI double Friday.

  • RHP Pat Neshek, the rookie reliever who made his major league debut only last month, stranded two more inherited runners Friday, making him a perfect 12-for-12 in stranding runners. He also won the game, running his record to 3-0 and dropping his ERA to 0.84.

  • RHP Boof Bonser became the last of the three pitchers acquired for C A.J. Pierzynski in November 2003 to face the two-time All-Star catcher. Pierzynski went 1-for-2 with a walk Friday night against Bonser -- making him 4-for-9 (.444) against the threesome that also included RHP Joe Nathan (1-for-2) and LHP Francisco Liriano (2-for-5).

    BY THE NUMBERS: 3.03 -- The Twins' bullpen ERA -- tops in the majors -- after the seven-man relief staff recorded its third straight scoreless game in which it accounted for 3 2/3 innings or more, including a four-man, one-hit performance on Friday against the White Sox.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "When he landed with the White Sox, it bothered me a lot, because I knew he was a good player and I knew he'd help the White Sox. In my wildest dreams, I didn't think A.J. would end up in our division." -- Twins GM Terry Ryan, on the November 2003 trade that sent C A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for three current Twins' pitchers -- and Pierzynski's subsequent free agent signing with the White Sox before last season.


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