video thumbnail

Twins strike early on Mauer's solo home run

MINNEAPOLIS -- One sign of a good baseball team is the ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

The top five teams in that category in the American League this season are the Tigers, Rays, Orioles, Royals and Red Sox, and they're all in the thick of the playoff hunt. But it's been a struggle for the Twins in those situations this year, especially in August, and it was again the case on Friday night.

Kevin Correia pitched into the eighth inning, but he was hurt by the long ball, giving up two homers, and the Twins failed to come through in key situations at the plate yet again in a 5-2 loss to the White Sox at Target Field.

Minnesota went just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position on the night, and it's been a familiar problem for the Twins, who are hitting just .172 (23-for-134) in those situations this month. They also rank second-to-last in the AL in that statistic this season behind only the Astros, who have the worst record in baseball.

"Unfortunately, we missed out on a few big situations to get a key hit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We put people out there but missed our opportunities."

Correia, who tossed seven scoreless innings against the White Sox in his last start on Sunday, couldn't quite replicate his success this time around. The right-hander went 7 1/3 innings, but he surrendered five runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk with three strikeouts.

He struggled early, giving up two runs in the second inning and two more in the third before settling down until allowing a final unearned run in the seventh on a throwing error by Trevor Plouffe.

"I felt pretty good," Correia said. "When you're pitching against a team in back-to-back starts, you can't make too many mistakes or else they'll be on them. They scored the two runs after a couple hits and a groundball up the middle, and I just made a couple bad pitches for the two home runs. But it turned out better."

Dayan Viciedo, who was making his return after missing six straight starts with a sore left thumb, drove in two runs with a two-out single in the second to get the White Sox on the board. Chicago added two more runs in the third via a pair of solo homers. Jeff Keppinger started it off with a solo blast with one out before Adam Dunn connected on a solo shot with two outs.

Those runs came after Correia was spotted an early lead, as Joe Mauer launched a solo shot off left-hander Jose Quintana in the first inning. It was Mauer's 11th homer of the year to mark his highest total since 2009, when he hit 28 homers en route to winning the AL MVP Award.

But the Twins couldn't get much going against Quintana, who gave up just two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

"Their kid threw the ball well," Gardenhire said. "Our guys said he was really deceptive and had nice life on his fastball."

Minnesota had a chance to rally in the third inning with the bases loaded and two outs, but Quintana was able to strike out Ryan Doumit looking on a curveball on the 12th pitch of the at-bat to end the inning. Quintana threw 10 straight fastballs before going to the curve, which surprised Doumit.

"It was a pretty gutsy pitch," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It was an offspeed pitch and it ends up getting him. It takes a lot out of you though. It was good he came back the next inning and kind of had an easier inning."

The Twins didn't score again until the seventh, when Wilkin Ramirez tripled to open the inning and scored on a two-out single from Brian Dozier that knocked Quintana from the game. Left-hander Donnie Veal came in and walked Mauer to put two runners on with two outs, but he was able to strike out Justin Morneau to get out of the jam.

It was more of the same in the eighth, as Josh Willingham and Doumit both singled off reliever Nate Jones with nobody out but were stranded.

"We had opportunities tonight," Correia said. "But we just didn't get the key hits when we needed to."

MLB.com Comments