MINNEAPOLIS -- A run of 25 victories in 30 games before the All-Star break was nice, but if the White Sox don’t figure out a way to beat teams in their own division it could end up being all for naught.
In an epic meltdown during the ninth inning Sunday, the Minnesota Twins scored four runs to rally for a 7-6 victory that was completed when center fielder Alex Rios threw to nobody in particular as the winning run scored from third base.
When the White Sox went on their season-high 11 game win streak in June, not only were none of those victories against division teams, they weren’t even against teams in their own league. Four National League teams were the victims.
Then came July’s nine-game win streak that spilled over one day in to the second half. That run closed with the last four victories against division teams (three against Kansas City and one against Minnesota).
Sunday’s defeat, though, was the third consecutive to the Twins and left the White Sox with an unsightly mark against American League Central foes. The White Sox might be in first place by 1½ games over the Tigers and Twins, but they are just 17-20 against the teams they play most.
The Tigers are even worse in division play, holding a 16-21 division mark after Sunday’s fourth consecutive defeat to the Cleveland Indians. Even those last-place Indians are better in the division than the White Sox with an 18-17 mark.
The Twins, on the other hand, have shown that division play isn’t an issue. They have a 23-13 mark in the Central, the American League’s best division record behind Tampa Bay’s 23-12 record.
"We’re not going to win the division if we don’t beat our own division, clear as that," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If we don’t win against our division, we’re done. We got to beat those guys. We got to beat Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota, to win this division. You can’t win it if you don’t play well against your own division."
All that talk about being competitive during every defeat over the last month was an interesting concept, but this one-run defeat was far worse than Friday’s three-run loss. Not only did the bullpen fail, but Rios’ overthrow to allow the winning run to score was yet another high-profile miscue in the series.
White Sox relievers entered with a 1.87 ERA in July and had converted all 17 save attempts since June 9. But Jenks walked Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer to lead off the ninth, and the Twins kept putting on the pressure. Jason Kubel and Mchael Cuddyer had RBI singles before Jenks was removed for Santos.
It was more of the same from Santos, who walked Jason Repko before Delmon Young singled to right center. Rios got to the ball, hesitated before throwing back to the infield and then uncorked one that rolled to the White Sox dugout.
"That was a situation where I just have to pick up the ball and make a nice and easy throw home," Rios said. "I just overthrew it. It’s not acceptable."
BY THE NUMBERS
4: Hits from Gordon Beckham on Sunday to set a career high for a single game. He is 12 for 18 over his past five games, going back to the final game of the first half, responding after he was benched for a three-game stretch beginning July 4. All four of his hits Sunday out of the ninth spot in the order were singles.
"It’s not a good feeling. You’re definitely lonely out there, that’s for sure. All eyes are on you, of course. Days like that you got to forget about them as soon as you can and go out there and win the next day." -- Jenks, after failing to get an out Sunday and blowing his first save attempt since May 9.
Daniel Hudson (0-0, 11.25 ERA) needs to show more in his second start of the season Monday at Seattle than he did in his season debut July 11 against the Royals. Handed an early 8-1 lead, Hudson couldn’t get through the fifth inning to earn the victory. He gave up five earned runs in four innings in a game the White Sox eventually won 15-5.
Hudson will be opposed by the Mariners’ David Pauley (0-1, 1.00), who is making his seventh career start and second with Seattle. He made five starts for the Red Sox over the past two seasons.