Twins 5, White Sox 2
But Loaiza just flopped in the opener of a key three-game series with the Minnesota Twins.
Brad Radke beat Loaiza for the second time in six days as the Twins stretched their AL Central lead over the White Sox to 1 1/2 games with a 5-2 victory Tuesday.
“It seems like every time you need a big start out of him, he comes in and does the job,” Minnesota catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of Radke, who won his fifth straight decision.
Loaiza, fighting the flu, couldn’t find the plate. He walked a season-high five in 2 1-3 innings—his shortest start of the year.
“My curve was moving too much, and they weren’t swinging at it,” Loaiza said. “I did my best, and we did, too. We just need to come back and win.”
Manuel put it a little more bluntly.
“We’ve got to win the next two games,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
The Twins, who clinched the division on Sept. 15 last season, have been alone in first place for two straight days—the first time that’s happened since June 22-23. A win in at least one of the next two against Chicago, and Minnesota should have the edge with seven of its final nine against lowly Detroit.
“Driver’s seat? Oh, my,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We just want to come out and try to play. We don’t worry about the driver’s seat.”
Torii Hunter and rookie Michael Ryan each had two hits for the Twins, who took a 4-0 lead after three innings. A crowd of 32,921 was given Homer Hankies left over from last year’s playoff run, and they made it sound a little like a postseason game.
Loaiza (19-8) entered tied for seventh in the league in fewest walks per nine innings (2.0), but his night began ominously with a leadoff walk to Shannon Stewart. It ended after four singles, four runs, 74 pitches and just seven outs.
“He was different tonight than what I usually see,” White Sox shortstop Jose Valentin said. “You could see him looking for help. He wasn’t the same Loaiza he was all year.”
Loaiza, who never won more than 11 games in a season during his eight previous major league seasons, allowed five runs in a 5-2 loss to Radke and the Twins in Chicago last week.
He loaded the bases on walks in the first, escaping with only one run when Corey Koskie hit a sacrifice fly to deep left and Hunter chopped an inning-ending grounder to second. Denny Hocking hit a bases-loaded RBI groundout in the second, and Cristian Guzman scored on Loaiza’s second wild pitch of that inning to put the Twins up 3-0.
Ryan greeted reliever Scott Schoeneweis with an RBI single after Loaiza was removed with two on. On the next pitch, left fielder Carlos Lee made a leaping catch at the wall to take a three-run homer away from Guzman.
Meanwhile, Radke (13-10) scattered eight singles over seven innings, allowing just one run and striking out three in another clutch performance. He struggled through the first half, throwing too many pitches down the middle, but an improved changeup has helped him turn it around since the All-Star break.
After that, Radke settled down and kept the White Sox from scoring while their ace was struggling.
“It kind of looked like their heads were hanging a little low,” Radke said.
Carl Everett spoiled the shutout bid in the sixth with a two-out single that scored Lee and cut the lead to 4-1.
Everett hit a solo homer, his 28th, off LaTroy Hawkins in the ninth to capthe scoring.
Hunter drove in his 100th run with a one-out single off Kelly Wunsch with a one-out single in the seventh. … This was Loaiza’s shortest outing since July 2, 2001, when he got only one out for Toronto against Boston. It was also his highest walks total since Aug. 4, 1999, when he issued five for Texas against Minnesota. … This was the Twins’ largest crowd for a weekday game in September since they drew 43,450 on Sept. 25, 1991, against the White Sox. … Manuel used a little pennant-race gamesmanship in the third to give Schoeneweis more time to warm up. He walked slowly to the mound and called his infielders to talk before umpire Joe West urged them to break it up amid boos from thecrowd. Manuel then motioned for the pitching change.