MINNEAPOLIS — This season ceased to be about playing for one win long ago for manager Robin Ventura and the Chicago White Sox.
Mired in last place for most of the season, they’re thinking about the future.
That’s why Ventura left right-hander Nate Jones, who is being groomed for setup duty, in to face lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau with a one-run lead in the eighth inning Thursday night.
Jones gave up a double to Mauer and the tying single to Morneau before Chris Herrmann’s pinch-hit single in the ninth lifted the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 victory over the White Sox.
”He’s been through that before,” Ventura said. “He’s been tough on lefties and righties, so if you’re going what you feel comfortable with, you’re comfortable with him staying in there. They were better tonight.”
With left-hander Donnie Veal available in the bullpen, Ventura stuck with Jones, a hard-throwing 27-year-old who led all AL relievers with a .093 batting average against, to face Minnesota’s two best hitters. Mauer scorched a double to center field and just beat a strong throw from right-fielder Avisail Garcia to tie the game.
Herrmann followed in the ninth with a single off Ramon Troncoso (1-4) to hand the White Sox their 10th straight road defeat. It also spoiled a nice start from Andre Rienzo, who gave up two runs — one earned — on four hits with two strikeouts in six innings.
Paul Konerko had two hits and an RBI and Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez also drove in runs to help the White Sox take a 3-0 lead after three innings.
But after a shaky start to the game in which he gave up two runs in the first, Twins starter Mike Pelfrey settled down and grinded out a solid outing. He gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out four in 6 1-3 innings. Trevor Plouffe added a solo homer and Josh Willingham also had an RBI single for the Twins.