After a rough summer, Jorge Polanco has ramped up his production at the right time for the Minnesota Twins.
From both sides of the plate and with both sides of his game.
Polanco homered twice, Ervin Santana struck out seven while pitching into the seventh inning and the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 6-4 on Tuesday.
“He’s doing everything right now,” Santana said in praise of Polanco, who made a diving stop of Tim Anderson’s groundball to start an inning-ending fielder’s choice in the second.
Eduardo Escobar also drove in two runs for the Twins, who took a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels into the night in the crowded race for the second AL wild card. Santana (14-7) matched his highest victory total since he was a 17-game winner 2010 with the Angels.
Only six games are left on Minnesota’s schedule against teams on pace for the playoffs. Including the White Sox this week, the Twins are facing six opponents in the other 26 games with losing records and a combined 70 games under .500 entering play on Tuesday.
Boosted by a surge of production from their promising young hitters and buoyed by the steadiness of veteran starters Santana and Bartolo Colon, the Twins are 18-10 this month. Polanco, who hit just .148 with five extra-base hits over 115 at-bats in June and July, has been the latest to contribute.
“He’s been a real important part of our team the way he’s swinging the bat and playing defense,” manager Paul Molitor said.
Polanco is hardly a power hitter, but try telling that to the White Sox. They’ve surrendered eight of his 13 career home runs.
“He’s got some juice from both sides of the plate, obviously,” manager Rick Renteria said.
Jose Abreu went 4 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs for the White Sox, who fell to 4-17 in their last 21 road games. Abreu’s single in the ninth put the tying run at the plate, but Matt Belisle escaped for his fifth save.
James Shields (2-5) has not won for the White Sox in 10 starts. He’s been better this month, thanks in part to an alteration of his arm angle, but this was a mediocre output with five hits and five walks allowed in five innings. He left with a 4-0 deficit.
In the first inning, Shields cost himself defensively. Eddie Rosario’s comebacker could’ve been a double play, but Shields threw high to the shortstop Anderson covering second base to disrupt his rhythm and only get one out as a run scored. Rosario moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Byron Buxton’s single.
“Sometimes when you’re in the middle of the action, you go a little bit too quick,” Shields said.
STUFFING THE SOX
Not only was this Polanco’s first career multihomer game , the 24-year-old shortstop became the fifth player in Twins hitter to go deep from both sides of the plate in the same contest. The others were Roy Smalley (1986), Chili Davis (1992), Ryan Doumit (2012) and Kennys Vargas (2016).
In Polanco’s last six games against the White Sox, going back to the beginning of last week, he’s 7 for 21 with 11 RBIs and six home runs. Having hit safely in 22 of 25 games in August, Polanco is batting .387 (36 for 93) with 17 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs.
Polanco hasn’t adjusted his swing, merely made better decisions about when to do it.
“I’m trying to get my pitch and eliminate swinging at bad pitches, and I think it’s going well,” he said through a translator.
An overslide by Anderson of second base cost him a double in the fifth inning. When he hit a ball in the seventh to almost the same spot, off the tall wall in right field, Anderson exaggerated his final step and stood with perfect posture directly on the base. He clapped and pointed to the White Sox dugout, where some mock praise was being directed his way.
White Sox: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (back strain) threw a trouble-free bullpen session. When he’s fully healthy and his spot comes up, he’ll rejoin the rotation.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano’s recovery from a stress reaction in his left shin has not been as smooth as hoped. He’s been limited to cardiovascular work in the pool and on the bike. “I think it’s improving. I just think that it’s a slow process, unfortunately,” Molitor said.
White Sox: LHP Derek Holland (7-13, 6.05 ERA) takes the mound Wednesday. He beat Minnesota in Chicago last week with six innings and one run allowed.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (11-6, 4.04 ERA) pitches the middle game of the series. He’s won each of his last six home starts, with a 2.88 ERA over 40 1/3 innings.