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Home runs power Twins

Joe Mauer of the Twins watches his two-run home run off White Sox starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, also scoring Denard Span, during the second inning Tuesday night in Chicago. <b>Associated Press</b>

CHICAGO -- Jim Thome hit his 579th homer, Joe Mauer had three more hits and the Minnesota Twins took sole possession of the AL Central lead by beating the Chicago White Sox 12-6 on Tuesday night.

For the Twins, it was a good start to a series be-tween the top two teams in the division. Now, they're alone atop the Central.

They pounded out five homers, starting with Thome's drive to left-center in the second kicked off a four-run burst.

J.J. Hardy and Mauer each went deep against Freddy Garcia (10-5) in the inning to make it 5-0, and the Twins pulled away after Chicago's Carlos Quentin hit a three-run shot off Scott Baker (10-9) in the bottom half.

Mauer now has 25 hits in 46 at-bats and Minnesota pounded out 14 in all while winning for the fifth time in six games. Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer each added two-run homers.

It was another difficult night for the White Sox, who managed just 10 runs while dropping three of four at Baltimore and falling into a first-place tie.

Manager Ozzie Guillen went off on another tangent before the game in which he wondered why there was so much attention on the Twins and said his own team does not "feel the support." He said the White Sox deserve more credit, but they didn't exactly back him while taking just their second home loss in 15 games.

Garcia allowed six runs and eight hits over 2Zc innings after going 7-1 in his previous 12 starts, and while the White Sox showed some pop at the plate, it wasn't enough to make up for his difficulties.

Baker allowed five runs over six shaky innings. But he got enough support this time after throwing eight scoreless innings while taking a no-decision in his previous start against Tampa Bay.

The teams will play another three-game set at Target Field next week, and the odds that these series would showcase the top two teams in the division seemed slim not too long ago.

Afterall, the White Sox were 9½ games out in early June and most of the attention centered on the deteriorating relationship between Guillen and general manager Ken Williams. A 25-5 run that gave them the lead at the All-Star break changed all that, but they're struggling at the moment.

Back-to-back doubles by Orlando Hudson and Mauer after a diving Paul Konerko snagged leadoff hitter Denard Span's liner gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, and they had no trouble adding to it in the second.

Thome, who's 10th on baseball's home run list, immediately hit his 15th this season and second in as many games against a former team. He also went deep against Cleveland on Sunday.

NOTES: Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, now overseeing the White Sox's international scouting, had nothing but praise for Scottie Pippen. Michael Jordan's partner on the championship teams goes into the Hall of Fame on Friday. "I have the utmost respect for Scottie as a player," said Krause, who had an acrimonious relationship with Pippen. "He was a great player. He worked extremely hard, and that's what counts. There are times in a guy's career where things come up. It comes up with everybody, but what you care about is how hard a guy plays, if he gives the 82 efforts a year and he goes to the playoffs and gives you more effort, and that young man did that. He did it everyday. There were no off days for Scottie Pippen, and that's a tremendous tribute to the young man." ... Juan Pierre went 0-for-3, ending his career-high-tying 16-game hitting streak. ... Twins 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) did not travel with the team to Chicago, electing instead to work out at home.