for this game

White Sox edge Twins behind Garcia

Sep 30, 2006 - 3:06 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Their reign is all but over, but the Chicago White Sox are not ready to pass the torch to the Minnesota Twins.

Freddy Garcia pitched 7 1/3 strong innings as the defending world champion White Sox prevented the Twins from taking over the lead in the American League Central Division with a 4-3 victory.

Minnesota (95-65) remained tied with Detroit (95-65) for first place in the AL Central. But the Twins are at a disadvantage as the Tigers hold the season-series tiebreaker and finish the regular season against the Kansas City Royals, baseball's worst team.

"You've got three games left and you lose a game, yeah, it's a missed opportunity," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Twins did get a huge break when the Royals rallied from a five-run deficit to beat the Tigers, 9-7, in 11 innings.

In winning his fourth consecutive start, Garcia (17-9) was superb in outdueling rookie righthander Boof Bonser, who suffered his first loss in five decisions in September. Garcia allowed one run and five hits, striking out three without a walk.

"I like to finish strong," Garcia said. "It's different than last year. I pitched pretty good in September this year. I've thrown the ball real good. Hit my spots and try to enjoy."

The Twins didn't go down quietly, however.

A night after Joe Mauer homered with two outs in the ninth inning of a game the Twins won in extra innings, Nick Punto singled and Luis Rodriguez walked to open the ninth off White Sox closer Bobby Jenks.

That brought Mauer to the plate, but the AL's leading hitter struck out on a check swing. Michael Cuddyer followed with a two-run double down the left field line to cut the deficit to 4-3.

After Justin Morneau struck out on three pitches, Torii Hunter hit an infield single and Lew Ford walked to load the bases. But the burly Jenks struck out Phil Nevin to end the game and secure his 41st save.

"Did you see that?" White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Bounce one over the third baseman's head, Hunter hits a two-chopper, that's the way they play. They are a scrappy little team. It's not easy to go out there and perform (against them).

"But we've got to keep playing. I don't want to be embarrassed and I'm sure no one on my team wants to be embarrassed on the field. We have two games to go, but we have to play like there is a hundred games to go."

Bonser (7-6) pitched fairly well, allowing three runs and seven hits in five frames. He struck out three and walked two.

"I had a couple pitches I hung that they hit, but that's what happens," said Bonser, the likely starter for Game Two of the AL Division Series.

"The kid gave a super effort, he was fantastic," Gardenhire said. "We had a chance at the end. That's all you can ask for, is to give them everything you have, but we just couldn't come up with one more big hit. It's a little frustrating for everybody."

Garcia was overpowering at the outset. The 30-year-old Venezuelan was backed by solo home runs from Jermaine Dye and Alex Cintron and an RBI single by Jim Thome for a 3-0 lead through five innings.

The Twins finally broke through against Garcia in the seventh, when Rodriguez led off with a double and scored on Cuddyer's one-out single to cut the deficit to 3-1.

A.J. Pierzynski singled in an insurance run for the White Sox in the ninth, and it proved to be necessary as the Twins staged the late rally against Jenks.

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