Walters throws 1st complete game for Twins

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CHICAGO — After a weekend of being overused, the Minnesota Twins got a night off courtesy of P.J. Walters.

Walters tossed his first career complete game, and Justin Morneau hit a three-run homer as the Twins routed the Chicago White Sox 9-2 on Tuesday night.

“My bullpen was smiling when they came in shaking hands. We haven’t seen that very much around here,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “(Walters) ate up a whole ballgame’s worth of innings, which really helps your bullpen out. We’ve really been beat up out there.”

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Five relievers combined to throw 6 1-3 innings in the Twins’ 16-4 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday, and five were used for an inning apiece in Saturday’s 11-inning win.

“The goal of the night is to always keep them out of there,” Walters said. “To have yesterday off and then the day off, that’s good rest for a few of them.”

Walters (2-1) cruised in his third start of the season to snap Chicago’s four-game winning streak. He gave up a solo homer to Gordon Beckham with one out in the first inning, but allowed little else.

Two batters after Beckham’s home run, Paul Konerko doubled off Walters, then the 27-year-old right-hander didn’t allow another hit until Konerko singled with one out in the seventh.

Walters let the leadoff man reach in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but used his off-speed pitches to induce double plays each time to erase any potential threat.

“(My changeup) was a good pitch for me early in the game,” he said. “My breaking ball got better for me later in the game, so I used it more at the end. It definitely got me a few ground balls early in the game that were big for us.”

Walters struck out eight and allowed just five hits and two runs.

Morneau’s leadoff walk in the second started the four-run rally, and his fourth-inning blast capped the five-run fourth for the Twins, who have won five of their last six games.

Minnesota’s offense came to life early, sending nine men to the plate in the second inning against Gavin Floyd. Alexi Casilla’s two-run double put the Twins on the board, and Jamey Carroll and Denard Span followed with run-scoring singles.

They continued to pour it on in the fourth. Floyd intentionally walked Joe Mauer with two outs to load the bases for Josh Willingham, who laced a 3-1 pitch under shortstop Alexei Ramirez’s glove to drive in two runs. Morneau pulled the next pitch over the right field wall to put Minnesota up 9-1.

“Morneau had a big night,” Gardenhire said. “I know his home run was big, but I thought leading off the second inning with that walk after getting behind in the count was huge. It led to four runs.”

Floyd (3-5) took a seat after Morneau’s homer. He was charged with nine runs and eight hits over 3 2-3 innings.

He dropped to 0-8 in his last eight starts against Minnesota dating to Aug. 31, 2009.

“I wish I could pinpoint certain things,” Floyd said. “”They have a good game plan against me apparently and I’ve got to change that and try to get them next time.”

It was the second consecutive miserable outing for Floyd, who gave up seven runs and 10 hits to the Angels last Wednesday.

Konerko finished with two hits in his return to the lineup. He missed two games due to a laceration and swelling over his left eye from being hit by a pitch on Friday night against the Cubs.

He drove in Chicago’s second run with an RBI groundout in the ninth.

The White Sox had beaten the Twins in eight of their last 10 meetings overall, but fell to 3-11 in their last 14 home games against Minnesota.

Beckham’s homer was his fifth of the season, all coming this month. It was his third in the last four games.