Sonny Gray closed on Gerrit Cole for the AL ERA lead, Edouard Julien and Jorge Polanco homered and the AL Central-leading Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 4-0 on Sunday.
Minnesota (79-71), nearing its third division title in five seasons, leads second-place Cleveland (72-78) by seven games with 12 games remaining.
Gray (8-7) lowered his ERA from 2.96 to 2.84, just behind Cole, who leads the AL at 2.81 for the New York Yankees. Gray gave up five hits in seven innings, struck out six and walked none, ending a three-start winless streak.
“That was a good way to finish the series,” acting manager Jayce Tingler said after the Twins took three of four from Chicago. “Sonny kind of came out from the get-go and set the tone."
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Gray allowed leadoff doubles in the fourth and six innings, then retired three straight both times.
“That’s a time to buckle down more than any time in the game,” Gray said.
Griffin Jax and Emilio Pagán finished a six-hitter for Minnesota’s 11th shutout this season.
Dylan Cease (7-8) allowed three runs, four hits and three walks in six innings. Chicago (57-93) has lost seven of nine.
“It wasn’t my best, but it kept us in it,” Cease said.
Julien hit a three-run homer in the fifth, his 14th home run this season, and Polanco added his 13th of the season against Luis Patiño in the eighth.
“It’s big,” Julien said. “We’re closer to our playoff goal now. It’s fun to be on a team like this.”
Twins third base coach Tommy Watkins had to dive, sending his helmet rolling, to avoid Ryan Jeffers’ foul liner in the second. He wasn’t hurt.
Bench coach Tingler was Minnesota’s acting manager while Rocco Baldelli is away, awaiting the birth of twins.
Former manager Tony La Russa, Hall of Fame DH Harold Baines and utility player Ron Kittle were on the field before the game as the White Sox celebrated the 40th anniversary of its 1983 AL West title. Chicago wore 1983 throwback uniforms, as it has done for all Sunday home games this year.
Twins: OF Michael Taylor (right hamstring strain) could be activated from the 10-day injured list as early as Monday’s series opener at Cincinnati, Tingler said. … OF Max Kepler sat out to rest.
White Sox: INFs Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada and OF Luis Robert Jr. got the day off.
Twins: RHP Joe Ryan (10-9, 4.20 ERA) will open a three-game series at Cincinnati on Monday.
White Sox: Mike Clevinger (7-8, 3.61) faces fellow RHP Joan Adon (2-2, 5.92) on Monday at Washington.