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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jake Odorizzi was at 93 pitches, had struck out the last four batters he faced and retired eight in a row when Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli surprisingly emerged from the dugout to pull his starter one out into the sixth inning.
The pitcher, along with Max Kepler where dealing with an illness. It was hard to tell as Odorizzi dazzled again and Kepler hit a three-run homer an estimated 429 feet into the wall of juniper bushes in center field to help the Twins win 7-0 over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
"Sometimes you see some of the best performers play at their best when they're sick," Kepler said. "Michael Jordan, when he was sick in that playoff game. I don't know what it is. Maybe, just calmer. I don't know."
Eddie Rosario hit his 16th home run — which is second in the American League to Houston's George Springer — for three runs to cap a four-run third inning against Chicago starter Dylan Covey. Kepler's 12th homer was No. 104 for the Twins, which leads the majors. They also own the top home run differential at plus-43.
Minnesota has won 11 of its past 12 games and swept a series for the seventh time this season. The Twins swept eight series all of last season.
Odorizzi (7-2) allowed one hit in 5 1/3 scoreless innings to win his seventh straight decision, and he finished without allowing a run for the fifth time in his past six starts. He combined with four relievers for Minnesota's sixth shutout of the season.
"It just kind of caught up with me in about the fourth inning on, getting the breathing going and my throat has a little mucus, that sort of thing," Odorizzi said. "I was having trouble just getting a deep breath and then felt like I was choking afterwards because of all the drainage going on. It's been like this way for a few days, so I think I'm on the uphill part of it."
The Twins' surge to the best record in the majors has been powered by the best offense in baseball, but Odorizzi and the team's starters have done their part. Minnesota entered the day with a 3.57 ERA from its starters, the third-best mark in the majors.
"I think their pitching staff is doing a fine job," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. "Some of the arms they're throwing in the back of the pen right now and in the middle of games, they've got some pretty good arms. They're kind of running hot, but it's a talented group."
Odorizzi has given up three runs in his past 35 2/3 innings for a 0.76 ERA and he's struck out 38 batters over that span. In six starts at home this season, the right-hander has given up five runs in 36 1/3 innings.
He struck out nine batters on Saturday, while the White Sox tied a season high with 16 strikeouts. They were outscored 26-5 in the three-game series.
ONE TOUGH INNING
Covey (0-4) allowed four runs in six innings on three hits and two walks. The only runs he surrendered came in the third, including an RBI double by Kepler over the head of center fielder Charlie Tilson that Tilson misjudged.
"I felt really good today," Covey said. "Just that one inning I just made a mistake to a really good hitter with a man on base and he didn't miss it. Other than that, it was kind of smooth sailing for me."
GET TO KNOW THEM
Minnesota's success didn't translate much to Target Field attendance in the early going, possibly due to unseasonably cool weather. A return home after a strong West Coast road trip coupled with warmer temperatures brought the fans out for the weekend series.
Sunday marked the team's second straight sellout and second since Opening Day. It's the first time Minnesota has had back-to-back sellouts since June 20-21, 2015 against the Chicago Cubs. The crowd of 39,913 was the most at Target Field since Opening Day 2016. The Twins reported walk-up sales of 2,593 on Sunday.
White Sox: SS Tim Anderson was a late scratch from the lineup for the second straight day as he deals with a laceration on his right hand and right wrist soreness. Anderson was hit in the hand by a pitch on Friday. He said prior to the game that he was ready to go but was later scratched. . OF Leury García was also a late scratch on Sunday due to right shoulder soreness.
White Sox: RHP Ivan Nová (3-4, 6.96 ERA) starts Monday as Chicago returns home against Kansas City. Nová is 0-2 and has allowed 20 earned runs in 11 innings pitched at home this season. He's coming off a win at Houston when he gave up three runs in seven innings. The Royals counter with RHP Homer Bailey (4-5, 6.13).
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (4-3, 5.43) draws the start Monday as Minnesota opens a two-game series with Milwaukee, which sends LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.39) to the mound. Pineda has won his last two starts and has three quality starts in a row, giving up three runs in each start over that span.
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