CHICAGO - Over and over, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire kept using the word ''huge'' to describe some of the developments during the Twins' 8-5 victory over the White Sox on Friday night.
And it took several big moments for the Twins to overcome a 5-1 lead in the first inning to beat Chicago for the ninth consecutive time and to pull within 1 1/2 games of the White Sox for third place in the AL Central.
Rene Tosoni and Luke Hughes came through in the pivotal fourth inning as the Twins scored six runs to take control.
With one run already in, Tosoni dug in against Chicago righthander Gavin Floyd with the bases loaded and fell behind 1-2. But the outfielder showed poise that belied his rookie status, fighting off a couple of pitches to work the count full.
Floyd came in with a fastball, and Tosoni ripped it to right for a two-run single that tied the score 5-5.
"[Floyd] had to throw a fastball [at] 3-2, had to attack him and he banged it out there.'' Gardenhire said, "That was a huge at-bat for the young kid, Showed some grit, a lot of poise in a big situation.''
Tosoni is with the Twins for the second time this season after starting the year at Class AAA Rochester and feels more and more comfortable.
"Coming back this time, I'm just trying to go out with quality at-bats,'' he said. "I'm not looking for results; I'm just trying to have a quality at-bat every time. Tonight I had two hits, and I felt I probably had three quality at-bats in my five.''
Lefthander Will Ohman replaced Floyd, and Hughes fell behind 0-2. But Hughes battled back and ran the count full. Ohman came in with a fastball, and Hughes took a big rip and sent the ball into the left field bleachers for an 8-5 Twins lead.
Two rookies are showing they can contribute.
"The ups and downs of the big leagues, sometimes it can't be too much fun, going through some scuffles there,'' Hughes said. "Everybody's doing great.''
Twins righthander Nick Blackburn could have been yanked after giving up five runs in the first inning, including two on Adam Dunn's home run. But the Twins didn't want to bring in Anthony Swarzak because he's scheduled to start Sunday to replace Scott Baker in the rotation for a turn so he can rest his achy arm.
They left Blackburn in, and he figured out a way to last five innings, absorbing those five runs on 10 hits.
"I think once I settled in, everything was good,'' said Blackburn, who has a 12.15 ERA over his past three starts. "I think I pitched better than I had been the last three or four weeks.''
He kept the bullpen door from swinging open in the early innings.
And when Twins relievers were called upon, they held the White Sox to one hit over the final four innings, with Matt Capps earning his 14th save.
"And I think it was a confidence builder for him to throw four zeroes in a row,'' Gardenhire said of Blackburn. "That was huge.''
The other huge thing is that the Twins closed within seven games of first-place Cleveland and have a chance Saturday to win at least three of this four-game series in Chicago.