CHICAGO – Now the one sure thing the Twins had in the American League Central is no longer a sure thing.
After handling Chicago with ease this season — one reason why Chicago is in last place — the Twins now are being socked around by the White Sox.
After another laborious outing by Mike Pelfrey led to his exit in the fifth inning, the White Sox came up with some key hits and held off the Twins on their way to a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chicago entered the series on a six-game losing streak and having lost their past five series. Now they are using the Twins as a slump-buster and won despite committing three errors. And now only 4 ½ games separate the Twins and White Sox at the bottom of the division.
Can the season get any worse for the Twins? They were held to one run over six innings by White Sox starter Jose Quintana. They were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The Twins are a season-worst 22 games under .500. At 64-86, it's not a question of if the Twins will lose 90 games, but if 95 has moved into range.
Pelfrey lasted 4 ⅓ innings. His stuff looked lively at times. He retired seven consecutive batters at one point. But the time between some of his pitches could have been measured with an hourglass.
He threw 20 pitches in the first inning. He gave up one run in the second and had to work out of a bases-loaded jam that included a visit from pitching coach Rick Anderson. Pelfrey threw a whopping 38 pitches in that inning.
"A long process," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, "and the pace wasn't going very good. Used his slider a little bit [early] didn't use his curveball, but that was a lot of pitches and the game just had no pace to it and that's the problem. I think he's a little disappointed in that, too."
Pelfrey is 0-3 in four starts against the White Sox this season and 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA over his past five outings.
"I think the second inning was the big inning," said Pelfrey, who fell to 5-13. "I tried to throw a complete game in the second inning. I threw 40 pitches or whatever. The at-bat to Ramirez was 12 pitches but it felt like 30 pitches. I felt like whenever I made a mistake, they were able to find a hole."
Chicago knocked out Pelfrey in the fifth, during which they scored twice to take a 3-1 lead. Dayan Viciedo's RBI single in the sixth made it 4-1. The Twins cut the lead to 4-3 with two runs in the seventh but could get no closer. Trevor Plouffe, who was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI, flew out to the center field wall in the ninth, the closest the Twins got to tying the score.
The Twins were 10-6 against the White Sox entering the series but now have to win Wednesday afternoon to avoid suffering a three-game sweep. The Twins have been tough on the road during the second half of the season, but now have lost a road series for only the third time since the All-Star break.
"We had chances to tie the game up or take the lead," Gardenhire said. "They made some big pitches when they had to. It was a tough one for us because the guys were into it pretty good."