Twins suffer third consecutive loss
Poor play pushes Minnesota 4 1/2 games back in division
CHICAGO -- The Twins came into their series with the White Sox believing that their offense -- and pitching -- could keep up with the recently hot-hitting Chicago bats. But in the first two contests of the four-game series between the two clubs, that certainly hasn't been the case.The White Sox continued to slug their way to victory on Saturday night, tagging the Twins pitching staff for 16 hits en route to an 11-2 win over Minnesota at U.S. Cellular Field. It was the second straight night that the Twins had given up 16 hits to Chicago, the club which the Twins now trail by 4 1/2 games in the American League Central. And afterward, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't mince words with his feelings on his team's performance. "We basically got whipped tonight and we can't do much about it," Gardenhire said. "They scored a touchdown on us early in the game and we never got back in it." In only his second career start against the White Sox, Livan Hernandez found himself in a nearly identical situation to the first time he pitched at U.S. Cellular. Under an ominous rain-filled sky, Hernandez was forced to sit through a 33-minute rain delay between his second and third batters in the first inning. During his previous start here in early May, also a duel against White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle, Hernandez waited close to two hours to begin the game due to rain and nearly pitched a complete-game shutout -- allowing just one run over his nine innings. But this time, Hernandez delivered a much different outing. Following his 1-2-3 first, the right-hander found his share of problems in the second inning -- and well, a few more following as well. The White Sox began their hitting assault immediately off Hernandez in the second. Paul Konerko hit a shot into center field that Carlos Gomez misjudged, allowing the Sox first baseman to record his first triple since May 16, 2000. Following a sac fly by Jim Thome that scored Konerko for Chicago's first run, the White Sox tagged Hernandez for back-back hits to put runners on second and third. That's when Joe Crede came to the plate and trouble really found the Twins. The third baseman was coming off a two-homer night on Friday against Minnesota, his second straight game with a long ball. Well, Crede made it three straight games with a home run. He took an 0-1 slider from Hernandez, which was down in the zone, deep to left field for a three-run shot to give Chicago a four-run advantage. But Crede's assault on the Twins pitching staff didn't stop there. That long ball was the first of two three-run homers on the night for Crede, giving him a 2-for-4 night at the plate with six RBIs. In nine games against the Twins this season, Crede has gone 14-for-33 (.424) with four doubles, seven home runs and 15 RBIs. "Whatever we're doing is not working," catcher Mike Redmond said. "It's the same way we've pitched him in the past. This year he seems really locked on and locked in. ... It seems like everything he hits right now is a home run, a big hit or hit hard. We're definitely going to have to make some adjustments for him." Hernandez's problems continued again in the fourth inning, giving up three more runs in the inning, despite getting Crede to strike out. Exiting after just four innings, Hernandez allowed seven earned runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out two while throwing a total of 60 pitches. It was a continuation of recent troubles for Hernandez. He is 0-4 with a 9.70 ERA in his last four starts. He had given up 13 hits in both of his previous outings before being tagged for eight hits in just the four innings on Saturday night. Coming into the game, Hernandez (6-3) was on pace to allow 303 hits on the season. That would make him the first Major League pitcher to give up 300 or more hits since Phil Niekro allowed 311 while pitching for Atlanta in 1979. "Always in my whole career, I have a lot of hits," Hernandez said. "That's the way I pitch. I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I give up a lot of hits every year. It's not something new for me." What did frustrate Hernandez has been his inability to pitch deep into outings and limit those hits from turning into runs. "I've got to get out of a bad situation right now," Hernandez said. "I know I got a chance to help the team win more games, but right now, I'm just struggling. But I never put my head down. That's important to me. I'm the kind of guy ... I have a bad game and come back tomorrow and try to be better." Hernandez's short start meant another long night for the Twins bullpen. Boof Bonser replaced the veteran right-hander for the start of the fifth and ate up a fair share of those innings. Bonser pitched three-plus innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, although all of the trouble came in his final inning when he gave up the second of Crede's home runs on the night. Gardenhire knew this wouldn't be an easy road trip for his club, one that features three games in Cleveland and then three in Milwaukee following the four-game set in Chicago. But the hope is that after the two rough games to start, his team can start a turnaround beginning on Sunday. "This is a heck of trip. We know Cleveland can hit the ball around and Milwaukee can score too," Gardenhire said. "This is a test and we'll see if we can bounce back [Sunday]. Hopefully [starter] Kevin Slowey can move the ball in and around the plate, we can keep the ball in the ballpark and our hitters can bang it around a little more."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.