Twins lose 3-2 to White Sox

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have grown used to beating up on Gavin Floyd over the last three seasons, taking him deep and knocking him out early on their way to eight straight victories over the right-hander.

The guy who took the mound for the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night sure looked like Floyd. The pitches that came out of his hand looked like something completely different to the baffled Twins lineup.

Floyd struck out nine in seven shutout innings and Alex Rios homered to help the White Sox to a 3-2 victory, giving Floyd his first win over the Twins since July 11, 2009.

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“I thought he had real good stuff,” said Jamey Carroll, who was 7 for 17 against Floyd before going 0 for 3 on Tuesday night. “I’ve faced him a lot of times and I thought his stuff was a lot different tonight than when I’ve faced him before.”

Floyd (6-7) didn’t walk a batter and increased his scoreless streak to 13 1-3 innings while beating the Twins for just the fifth time in 17 career starts. Rios added a single and a stolen base to go with his two-run homer and Alexei Ramirez had two hits and an RBI for the first-place Sox.

Joe Mauer struck out twice to end a string of 15 consecutive plate appearances of reaching base against Floyd before getting a single off him in the sixth, and he wasn’t alone. Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere each fanned twice in the game.

“Everything was working for him today,” Revere said. “Curveball, slider, fastball, he was definitely on point tonight.”

The outing spoiled a strong start from Liam Hendriks (0-5), who yielded three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings, losing an unlikely pitching duel between two struggling right-handers.

The Twins had a chance in the ninth, loading the bases against closer Addison Reed and getting a two-run single from Carroll. But Denard Span grounded out to end the game and push Minnesota to 8 1/2 games behind the Sox in the AL Central.

“Gavin Floyd pretty much shut us down,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He didn’t give us many chances.”

Minnesota hasn’t been kind to Floyd over the years. The right-hander entered with a 4-11 record and a 6.29 ERA in his career against the Twins, including a 2-6 mark and a 5.05 ERA in Minnesota. Five of the Twins’ nine hitters carried career averages of .375 or better against Floyd into the game and Mauer had reached base in 15 straight plate appearances against him.

But Floyd was having all sorts of problems against most everyone this season. In his six starts prior to 6 1-3 scoreless innings against the Cubs, Floyd was tagged for 35 earned runs and 11 homers.

“You try to have a short-term memory, just go out there and live in the present and make pitches,” said Floyd, who was 0-8 with an 8.86 ERA in his previous eight starts against Minnesota. “It was good to go out and play well for the team.”

It looked to be more of the same when Span led off the first inning with a double off the wall in left-center field, but Floyd left him stranded at third base after striking out Mauer and getting Willingham to pop out to center field.

“He showed that he had command and was able to get out of situations,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “Especially that first, getting out of it with a guy on third and one out. That gives him confidence to get through the tougher innings.”

He fanned Mauer again in the third inning and breezed the rest of the way, retiring nine straight at one point before giving up back-to-back singles to Mauer and Willingham in the sixth.

No problem this time for Floyd, who struck out Justin Morneau and got Plouffe to pop out to left field to end the threat. It’s the first time Floyd has not given up a run in consecutive starts since July 2010. He built off of his curveball and was able to fool the Twins time and again with a slider that looked like his fastball before breaking at the last second.

“He was throwing a slider I couldn’t pick up, couldn’t see the spin on it,” Carroll said. “I cued it off the end of my bat twice. For some reason, I thought it was fastballs.”

Hendriks was nearly as effective, which was almost as surprising. The Australian was sent down to Triple-A after allowing 18 earned runs in his first four starts and was underwhelming in his two previous outings since being recalled.

He made one real mistake on Tuesday, a hanging slider that Rios put into the second deck in left field for a 2-0 White Sox lead in the fourth.