Vazquez flops again in White Sox opener vs. Twins

By Jon Krawczynski

MINNEAPOLIS – Maybe Ozzie Guillen was right about Javier Vazquez.

Two days after the manager said Vazquez hasn’t been a big-game pitcher during his career, the White Sox right-hander lasted just four innings in Chicago’s biggest game of the year, a 9-3 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night that pulled the Twins within 1 1/2 games in the AL Central race.

Vazquez (12-15) gave up five runs and seven hits, including a two-run homer and a triple to Jason Kubel, whose Twins practically need a sweep to position themselves for a fifth division title in seven years.

The only bright spot for the White Sox was Ken Griffey Jr. passing Sammy Sosa for sole possession of fifth place on the career list with his 610th home run, a two-run shot off Matt Guerrier in the ninth.

Kubel went 3-for-4 with two homers in the game, going back-to-back with Delmon Young off Boone Logan in the seventh to put the game out of reach and start this crucial three-game series in emphatic fashion.

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Scott Baker (10-4) gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, easily outshining Vazquez, who has been derided as a big-game flopper for his entire career, most recently on Sunday by his own manager.

Guillen said before the game Tuesday that he was trying to light a fire under Vazquez, urging him to pitch with an edge and attitude that is needed to succeed in meaningful games.

“He’s one of my friends,” Guillen said. “I just want Javy to be aggressive.”

After he was staked to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Vazquez walked Justin Morneau to start the bottom half and then gave up the two-run shot to Kubel that nearly hit the suites high above the baggie in right field.

The Twins added three more in a fourth inning started by Kubel’s triple past a diving Ken Griffey Jr. in center field. Young had a double down the right field line, and Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez had RBI singles to make it 5-1.

Baker finished an impressive outing with a flourish, retiring the last seven hitters he faced, one on a line drive back to the mound off the bat of Alexei Ramirez. The ball hit Baker’s glove and squirted out, but the lanky right-hander lunged forward and grabbed it with his bare hand to record the out.

Now things get even more interesting in a surprising division race.