CHICAGO -- A great deal of dark clouds and gray skies would have to be traveled through in order to find silver linings from Minnesota's 9-2 thumping of the White Sox on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Zach Stewart, who was called into relief when starter Gavin Floyd was knocked from the game in the fourth inning, allowed just one hit and struck out three over a career-high 3 1/3 innings. Will Ohman also threw two perfect innings, as the Twins (15-27) had exactly one baserunner after a five-run fourth.
Orlando Hudson made his White Sox debut and his Major League debut at third base in the eighth inning, when manager Robin Ventura employed wholesale changes, and handled Jamey Carroll's grounder cleanly with the help of Paul Konerko's stretch at first. Hudson also singled and scored a run in the ninth.
Konerko returned to the lineup with two hits and an RBI after almost three games of inactivity brought about by being hit in the left side of the face by a Jeff Samardzija pitch in the third inning Friday at Wrigley Field. Gordon Beckham also homered for the third time in four games.
All nice moments for the White Sox (21-22). But in their quest for a season-best fifth straight win, this performance would be pretty much classified as a complete debacle.
Just ask Ventura, who showed a rare bit of outward frustration following the loss.
"We just got kicked today. We got our [expletive] kicked," Ventura said. "And that's it. You just come back tomorrow. It was all the way around."
Momentum built up by the White Sox during a highly-charged three-game weekend sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field evaporated almost as soon as Floyd took the mound. And that statement is meant as no disrespect to the White Sox right-hander, who entered with a respectable 3.44 ERA.
It was more about Floyd and the opponent he was facing.
Since Aug. 31, 2009, Floyd (3-5) has an 0-8 record and 8.96 ERA against the Twins. He allowed nine runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings, becoming the first White Sox pitcher to lose eight straight starts to one team since Tommy Thomas dropped eight in a row against the Yankees from 1926-28.
Floyd allowed the nine runs in under four innings. White Sox pitchers as a staff gave up seven runs in their previous four games. These struggles came one start after the Angels put up seven runs on 10 hits against Floyd over six innings, but Floyd couldn't pinpoint his problems against Minnesota or during his last two trips to the mound.
"I guess I've got to figure that out. They have a good plan against me, apparently. So I got to change that and try to get them next time," said Floyd, who threw 88 pitches and watched his ERA climb to 4.66. "I wish I could pinpoint certain things. Maybe command of offspeed [pitches]. I wasn't commanding things. It was sporadic rather than all the time."
"Got it up, they got hit and it just kept happening," said Ventura of Floyd. "He didn't have it today. It's just one of those games."
Minnesota's four runs in the second and five more in the fourth stood as more than enough support for P.J. Walters (2-1) and his complete-game five-hitter. Alexi Casilla doubled home two and Carroll and Denard Span added run-scoring singles in that second inning, while Josh Willingham singled home two and Justin Morneau launched a three-run homer with two outs to account for the five-run fourth.
Walters allowed a harmless run in the ninth, but the White Sox needed those final six hitters just to push the right-hander's pitch count over 100 for the night. After Konerko's two-out double in the first, the White Sox didn't get another hit until Konerko's one-out single in the seventh. Walters fanned eight overall, striking out Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, Eduardo Escobar and Alejandro De Aza in the eighth and the ninth on just 14 total pitches.
"He changed speeds, was able to spin the ball over, use some changeups, sinkers," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire of Walters. "We gave him a nice lead and he did what a pitcher is supposed to do with it and ate up a whole ballgame's worth of innings."
Tuesday marked the end of a tough period overall for the White Sox, with the organization paying final respects to colleague and friend Kevin Hickey at his funeral earlier in the day. Hickey, an immensely popular pregame instructor for the White Sox since 2004, passed away at the age of 56.
As Ventura pointed out, the team has been dealing with Hickey's situation since he was found unresponsive in a Texas hotel room on April 5 but had been able to put it aside temporarily when they played. Maybe the finality of the situation, coupled with a potential post-Cubs letdown, contributed to the forgettable series-opening setback.
"There was a lot of mental energy burned today before we got here with that ordeal," said Konerko, whose team slipped 3 1/2 games behind the Indians in the American League Central after Cleveland's victory over Detroit. "But I thought we did the best we could. It just wasn't there tonight.
"The way I look at it is we came in to win the series and if we win tomorrow, momentum comes to us and then we can come out Thursday and win that game and then we'll have the series and can move on. It was just a tough day all the way around."