CHICAGO - This used to be such a fun rivalry.
Twins-White Sox games once were more competitive. Players accused the opponent of playing dirty. Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen would say something the Twins could slap on a T-shirt. It was good baseball and better theater.
Now the Twins exit their series against the White Sox looking like road kill. Chicago has won 16 of the past 21 games between the clubs, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is looking flummoxed while trying to explain why his team gets socked by the White Sox.
It never was more evident than this week at U.S. Cellular Field, where Chicago swept the Twins in three games. The White Sox got their licks in on righthander Nick Blackburn on Wednesday during a 8-2 victory. In three games, Chicago outscored the Twins 26-10.
Wednesday's game was the worst of the series. Blackburn was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning. Twins hitters couldn't get to Chicago righthander Jake Peavy, who went six innings. And, boy, were the Twins out of sorts in the field. Brian Dozier went one way and a ground ball went the other way in the second inning. In the third, Ryan Doumit caught a sacrifice fly for the second out of the inning, but he thought it was the final out and began running toward the dugout. Technically, it didn't cost the Twins any runs. But it sure looked bad. And Denard Span committed a throwing error.
In three games, the Twins were 3-for-31 with runners in scoring position.
"We can go on and on," Gardenhire said. "Just a terrible series.
"They whacked it, and they pounded us. They scored a lot of runs, and we got dominated here."
All of this in front of Twins General Manager Terry Ryan, who hadn't traveled with the team since mid-May. The nonwaiver trade deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday, and the Twins, now a season-worst 18 games under .500, are playing as if they need to make a deal. Or two.
Ryan has been in touch with other teams about trades but still isn't sure if he will be active before the deadline.
Teams are inquiring about outfielders Span and Josh Willingham, while the Twins have let it be known that lefthander Francisco Liriano can be had. Liriano's value took a knock when he was knocked around by the White Sox on Monday, but he's scheduled to start this weekend against Cleveland with a chance to impress suitors. Unless the Phillies put Cliff Lee on the block, Liriano could be the best lefthanded starter available -- and contenders always are looking for pitching.
The Twins are willing to listen to offers concerning any player, but it will take a lot for them to trade Willingham, their best power hitter. Their asking price for Span, according to reports, is high as well, because Span is a good player who's under contract through 2014 for a reasonable price.
How much interest is there in Justin Morneau? Teams like the Dodgers considered Morneau on the second tier of hitting targets because of his concussion history. And we saw what the Dodgers' plan was when they traded for Hanley Ramirez on Wednesday. Indications from Twins officials are that they do not have to dump salary, so there's no urgency to trade someone like Morneau, who will make around $20 million between now and the end of 2013.
This team needs pitching, which is hard to pry from other teams. What the Twins hope to do is make a move similar to what the Mets did last year when they sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco for righthander Zach Wheeler, who's now one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
In order to close the gap with the White Sox and other teams, the Twins have to identify good young players and pull the trigger on deals -- which Ryan has done before.
"We've made some good deals, and we have made some stinkers," Ryan said. "You're probably as good as your last deal in some people's eyes. I don't worry too much about that. You have to do what you think is right with all that information you gather and what the situation dictates. Then you make a decision."
La Velle E. Neal III firstname.lastname@example.org