Jim Thome hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning against the team that decided not to bring him back this season, sending the Minnesota Twins to a 7-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night to stretch their AL Central lead to four games.
After Delmon Young's leadoff single against Matt Thornton (3-4), Thome smashed an 0-1 pitch and sent it sailing over the right-field bleachers to send his new team and the fans at sold-out Target Field into a frenzy. Thome chucked his helmet into the air as he eagerly approached the mob at the plate.
Alexei Ramirez hit the tying home run in the ninth inning and the go-ahead RBI single in the 10th, as Twins relievers Matt Capps and Jon Rauch gave up three hits apiece in the last two innings. Ron Mahay (1-1) was the winner.
The Twins are 23-7 in their last 30 games, and the White Sox are 15-16 in their last 31. The teams have just five more meetings this year.
White Sox starter John Danks recovered from a four-run first inning to finish seven frames and save the beat-up bullpen from more overuse. The Twins, who had two runners thrown out at home, took the lead back at 6-5 on Young's fifth-inning homer.
Paul Konerko, who earlier became the second player in the league to reach 30 homers this season, grounded into a double play after the White Sox loaded the bases in the ninth following Ramirez's homer.
Minnesota's bullpen was cruising until Capps came in, retiring 10 of 11 batters in relief of Scott Baker. Glen Perkins, in his first appearance at Target Field, got Mark Kotsay to ground out with the bases full to finish the fifth and stranded A.J. Pierzynski following a leadoff double in the sixth.
Manager Ozzie Guillen insisted before the game the Twins don't have a mental edge over his team, but they're on some impressive runs against the Sox: 20-6 overall and 12-4 at home. Guillen joked that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gets so stressed out that he has to go to the hospital every time they play, then went on about how much more comfortable he is at Target Field than at the Metrodome.
"When I come here, I've got great hopes," Guillen said. "When we played there, I couldn't wait for the series to be over."
The division continues to revolves around this rivalry, as it has for the last decade, but with Guillen's constant praise for the Twins and their pesky reputation and the turnover on both teams it hasn't been quite as heated as it once was.
It's still intense, though, as Young proved in the eighth inning when he charged home on a groundout and veered toward chief agitator Pierzynski to deliver a forearm shiver that didn't dislodge the ball from the catcher's mitt.
Orlando Hudson's solo homer sparked the early surge against Danks. Then Jason Kubel's two-run triple and Jim Thome's RBI single padded the lead. Baker couldn't hold it, giving up Konerko's shot, Carlos Quentin's smash double and Kotsay's two-run homer. Kubel's outstanding, outstretched catch in right field helped Baker escape the third inning after Juan Pierre's leadoff walk, but back-to-back doubles by Kotsay and Pierzynski in the fourth tied the game at 4.
Danks was 5-1 in his previous seven starts, with one run or less allowed in five of those. He avoided further damage when second baseman Gordon Beckham made a perfect relay throw to the plate to nab the lumbering Thome trying to score from first on Danny Valencia's double.
NOTES: Justin Morneau's swing looked strong during early batting practice, but he still feels some post-concussion symptoms so the Twins have no timetable for his return. "The more he gets out there on the field and tells us he's feeling ready, then that's when we'll start talking to him about something else. We're just letting him do his thing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. ... The Twins had a 10-game run without allowing a homer at Target Field end. Konerko went deep on each end of the streak.