CHICAGO – Gee, Paul Molitor has a tough decision ahead of him.
Dillon Gee, a career starting pitcher who had turned into the long reliever that Molitor has pined for all season, handcuffed the White Sox on two hits over six innings Monday and helped the Twins salvage a split of their doubleheader with a 10-2 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Tim Melville, a midseason minor league signee, recorded only 10 outs while surrendering five runs in Game 1, absorbing a 7-6 loss that ended the Twins’ four-game winning streak. But they won the nightcap to improve to 12-4 over their past 16 games.
Melville and Gee were the 15th and 16th different pitchers to start a game for the Twins this season, a franchise record that reflects the instability that has hounded the starting rotation all season. Even now, there is no certainty about who will start Saturday’s game in Toronto — though Gee might have changed that.
“As of this minute, I haven’t finalized anything,” Molitor said. “Obviously, given the performance, we’d be wise to consider that an option for Saturday.”
The 31-year-old righthander, who won 40 games for the Mets over four seasons, was perfect through four innings Monday, and ultimately retired 18 of the 20 batters he faced. Gee, whose ERA in 18⅔ innings with the Twins fell to 1.93, gave up a leadoff home run to Nicky Delmonico in the fifth inning and a double to Leury Garcia in the sixth, but he issued no walks while striking out four.
“I just tried to be aggressive, not walk guys, just make it quick,” Gee said. “I definitely felt in control. I didn’t have the best curveball, which was kind of weird, but I just tried to attack the zone and keep them off balance.”
He didn’t have to worry about run support, thanks to the sudden return of the Twins’ homer-happy ways on the south side of Chicago. Jorge Polanco, who hit his first home run since June 23 in Game 1, while batting righthanded, smacked another in his next at-bat, a three-run second-inning blast while hitting lefthanded that seemed to trigger a return of the offense that swept Arizona over the weekend. Brian Dozier followed Polanco’s homer by crushing one to center field, also a three-run shot, and Byron Buxton and Jason Castro added solo homers later in the game.
“They weren’t cheapies. He got a hold of both of them,” Molitor said of Polanco’s big day. “I told him he should go high-five [Max] Kepler, because I didn’t have him in the lineup for the second game until Kepler got scratched [after feeling nauseous]. So that worked out pretty well.”
The Twins have hit 12 home runs in seven games here this season, with three more games to come.
By the end of the night, the Twins were a half-game ahead of Los Angeles for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.
They improved to 5-2 in Chicago with the split, and they had a couple of chances to make it 6-1. The Twins, largely muffled by starter Carlos Rodon, fell behind 7-1 in the first game. But the Twins rallied against a threadbare White Sox bullpen, and pulled to within 7-6 on Polanco’s homer off Derek Holland, Chicago’s scheduled starter Thursday.
The Twins, though, left runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, then went quietly in the ninth against new Chicago closer Juan Minaya, who inherited the job after David Robertson was traded to the Yankees. Minaya retired the Twins in order to record his third save.
Melville, who earned the start by posting a 2.70 ERA in 11 Class AAA appearances, retired seven straight batters at one point, three by strikeout. But the other innings didn’t go so well, with Chicago striking for two runs in the first inning to give him an early deficit, and three more in the fourth, on Yolmer Sanchez’s three-run homer.
“I tried to go inside and missed over the plate. Do that here, and guys will hit it a long way,” said Melville, who landed with the independent Long Island Ducks after being let go by the Reds after last season. “I just have to locate my pitches better, down in the zone.”