MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins had Chris Sale on his toes Wednesday afternoon while the poor play of the White Sox was prominently displayed.
Despite the presence of their ace, who maintained a record-strikeout pace with 10 more, the White Sox stumbled and bumbled their way through a 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in front of 28,854 at Target Field. Losers in 10 of their last 13, the White Sox made three more errors, added in a mental mistake and couldn’t solve Phil Hughes on a day in which Sale needed their support. Sale (6-4) tied Randy Johnson with his seventh straight double-digit strikeout performance, but it wasn’t enough as the Twins tagged him for six runs (five earned).
“They’ve been swinging with authority and you never know when they’re going to do it, first pitch, second pitch,” Sale said. “They’re an athletic team, they’re professional and they go up there with an idea of what they’re going to do and stick to it seems like.”
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Minnesota had Sale’s number in two of three previous meetings this season and Wednesday was no different. Sale had been on an epic chase this month, tying a mark previously set by Hall of Famers Johnson and Pedro Martinez with five straight 12-strikeout starts in a row. If he reached a dozen again, Sale would have become the first pitcher in major league history to do it in six straight starts.
He looked as if he was on pace to reach that goal with six strikeouts through three scoreless until the Twins woke up in the fourth with three doubles to take a 3-1 lead. Sale bounced back with two more strikeouts in the fifth and another in the sixth, keeping the deficit at two runs. But Kurt Suzuki doubled to start the seventh and Kennys Vargas singled. Adam Eaton then overran Shane Robinson’s RBI single, the error allowing Vargas to score from first and Robinson to reach third. Brian Dozier singled to give Minnesota a 6-1 lead.
Sale is 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA against the Twins this season, including three straight losses. He’s 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his 10 other starts.
“They just do a good job of staying with it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Once they get some guys on, they’re able to find some holes.
“Chris had two tough innings, and other than that, he pitched well. These guys find a way to get it done when they get guys on base.”
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The rest of the White Sox didn’t get it done in the field or on the bases.
Conor Gillaspie and Alexei Ramirez also committed errors but Sale pitched around those as he tied Johnson, who had seven straight starts with 10 strikeouts in 2001.
But Minnesota’s second rally forced Sale out after 6 2/3 innings.
It also provided Hughes (6-6) with a huge cushion.
The White Sox had a lot of loud contact early, including an Adam LaRoche solo homer in the second inning that put them up 1-0.
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But aside from LaRoche, who also had two doubles, and Adam Eaton, who had two hits, the White Sox had no answers for Hughes, who retired 21 of 26 after the second-inning homer. Hughes allowed a run and six hits in eight innings and finished with five strikeouts.
He also got a little help from Eaton with two outs and a man on in the fifth inning when the White Sox leadoff man stopped on his way to first base after hitting a line drive at Twins shortstop Eduardo Nunez, believing the ball had been caught. But Nunez couldn’t haul it in and though he bobbled it first, still had time to throw to first to retire Eaton. Eaton admitted he had a “Sean Casey” moment, believing Nunez caught it twice while acknowledging his mistake.
“We put some good at-bats together (early) but didn’t have anything to show for it,” Eaton said. “We need to continue to put pressure on them in later innings, but it didn’t come together.
“When it rains it pours scenario -- we have to pick ourselves up as a unit.
“We have to play better behind him and make plays.”