CHICAGO – J.A. Happ had been the most reliable Twins starter in 2021.
The Twins added the 15-year veteran to the rotation from the Yankees this past offseason, and he's commanded the spot behind struggling ace Kenta Maeda. The 38-year-old took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Pirates in April and came into Wednesday's game with the Chicago White Sox with a 1.91 ERA.
But even he wasn't immune to his team's dreadful start.
The White Sox took a big lead on the Twins for a second consecutive night at Guaranteed Rate Field, building up a 9-3 margin by the fourth inning en route to a 13-8 victory. The Twins (12-22) are now two losses away from the American League bottom-dwelling Detroit Tigers and nine games away from AL Central-topping Chicago.
"I can be better than that. It's frustrating to not keep us in that game," Happ said. "We were fighting. We fought all the way through there. The first part of the year, I've been able to keep us in there. [Wednesday], I didn't give us a real good chance."
Happ gave up the most earned runs of his long career through his 3⅓ innings. Chicago scored nine earned runs off him, including five in a devastating fourth inning. Chicago topped the league entering the game for hitting against lefthanded pitchers, batting .300.
Nelson Cruz hit a solo home run in the first inning, but like many of his team's leads this year, the advantage over Chicago was temporary. Happ allowed Chicago leadoff Tim Anderson to reach on a single. And while a double play took him and Nick Madrigal out, Yoan Moncada doubled, Jose Abreu tripled and Yermin Mercedes singled, all with two outs, to score two runs.
Happ allowed a leadoff walk in the second inning to Andrew Vaughn, who came around to score on Billy Hamilton's RBI triple. Happ then threw a wild pitch and Hamilton scored.
Luis Arraez and Kyle Garlick had base hits in the third, and Josh Donaldson drove them both home with another single.
In the fourth inning, the White Sox amassed five hits and five runs of Happ and reliever Shaun Anderson, making his Twins debut. Vaughn's two-run homer, Hamilton's double, Anderson's RBI single, Madrigal's double and Abreu's two-run single did the damage.
Yasmani Grandal then hit a leadoff home run in the fifth before the White Sox loaded the bases. Vaughn reached on Andrelton Simmons' throwing error, Hamilton singled and Anderson was hit by a pitch. Moncada then drove in two with a base hit to right field.
Jorge Polanco drove in Cruz in the sixth inning with an infield single. The Twins loaded the bases after that, before Chicago reliever Evan Marshall walked Simmons to gift the Twins another run. Arraez followed by driving in two more runs with his base hit.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli took Simmons out in the bottom of the sixth because of recurring right ankle inflammation. While a precautionary move, the Twins still tabbed the shortstop as day to day and planned to have an update Thursday. Baldelli said the injury might have flared after sliding in Tuesday's game.
"He didn't look comfortable at shortstop or running the bases or even swinging the bat," Baldelli said. "… He was taped up for the game [Wednesday], which isn't an uncommon occurrence for our guys. But it was something that was new for him. He went out there taped up, and it continued to kind of get worse during the game."
Chicago starter Dallas Keuchel had his worst line of the season, allowing eight hits and six earned runs in his 5⅔ innings.
Tyler Duffey took over for Anderson during the bottom of the sixth, allowing Hamilton to tie a career high with his fourth hit before a passed ball charged to Garver brought the score to 13-7.
Donaldson drove in his third run in the ninth inning with his third hit. But while the Twins' hitting had a good night, the pitching went asunder.
"We're going to need every facet of our game to carry us at different points for us to get where we need to be," Baldelli said. "… It hasn't gone the way we want to this point."