MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The sure sign of a slump for the Minnesota Twins? Struggling against the Chicago White Sox.
Jake Peavy won for the first time in more than six weeks with eight shutout innings, and the White Sox beat the Twins 7-0 Sunday to sweep a three-game series in Minnesota for the first time in more than seven years.
Before this weekend, the Twins had won 29 of their previous 36 games against their American League Central rival - including seven of eight this year.
The Twins had more errors (five) than runs (four) over these three games. They drew only one walk.
``To tell you the truth, I'm seeing a team out there that looked flat out there today,' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``Peavy had a lot to do with that, and that bothers you. Whether they're beat up from the road trip, tired, I don't know, but you've got no time to be tired. We're going deeper and deeper in a hole, again. We've been there once, and we're going right back to it.'
After starting the season 17-37, the Twins surged back to life in June - and contention in this underwhelming division - by winning 25 of their next 36 games. Since then, however, they're 9-14. They're 10 games behind the Detroit Tigers, still stuck in fourth place.
``We've got guys that are winners. I think it's more frustrating than anything,' said designated hitter Jim Thome. ``For years, the Twins, this time of year, have always put themselves in position to make big runs, and it just hasn't worked the way any of us would have liked.'
Brent Lillibridge, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios each hit home runs for the White Sox, who went deep only 18 times in July - their fewest that month since 1992. They pulled within 5 1/2 games of the Tigers.
Peavy (5-5) last picked up a victory by pitching four shutout innings in his first career relief appearance, June 25 against the Washington Nationals, three days after he beat the crosstown rival Cubs with a so-so start. The 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner hasn't been the same since coming to Chicago in a trade with the Padres, but the 30-year-old right-hander was in such a rhythm it looked like his old San Diego form.
``Once he got the lead, he just said, `I'm getting ahead of every hitter,'' said Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, marveling at the way Peavy used and spotted his cut fastball. Cuddyer added: ``They stuck it to us, all three games.'
The power surge from Peavy's teammates sure helped. The White Sox were averaging barely more than four runs per game when he's pitched, but little Lillibridge went deep for the second straight day in the second inning and Konerko followed suit in the fourth - both shots to the same section in the second deck above left field off Brian Duensing (8-10).
``You have to tip your hat to them. They hit the ball well,' said Duensing, lamenting that he left many of his sinkers up in the strike zone.
Duensing lasted 6 1-3 innings, but he gave up nine hits - Rios had an RBI double to cap a stretch of three straight extra-base hits that started the fourth - and five runs while walking one and striking out four.
One of those runs was unearned, due to a throwing error by Duensing in that rough fourth inning. He stopped a soft comebacker by Gordon Beckham, but sent his throw well wide of first base, blowing an easy out and prompting Gardenhire to rub his balding head before letting out a big sigh in the dugout. That's the kind of mistake the Twins have been making lately.
``We're still trying to do the best we can. It's just not going our way right now,' said right fielder Jason Kubel.
Given their experience, their accomplishments and their payroll, this team sure seems capable of more.
``That's the thing I've got to find out,' Gardenhire said. ``Are we? Will we? You have to do it. We can talk about it all we want. You can throw the names out there all you want, but it has to get done on the field. And we did nothing. So as a manager, yes, I'm sitting here wondering what the hell is going on.'
Notes: The Twins are 12 games under .500, the most since June 28. ... The Twins host the Red Sox Monday, sending Scott Baker (8-6) to face Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (6-4). ``They always say knuckleballers can screw your swing up,' Gardenhire said. ``Well, maybe he'll un-screw our swings up.' ... This will be the first trip to Target Field by the Red Sox since opening the ballpark April 12-15, 2010. ... Baker has pitched six innings or more in 14 of his 20 starts.
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