MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was irritated. He understands that teams go through slumps, but he expects his ballclub to be sound fundamentally.
That didn't happen Saturday night in a 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Not only did the Twins go 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in losing a second consecutive game to the White Sox, Minnesota also committed a pair of errors, didn't hold runners on base and allowed a key run to score on a wild pitch.
"Those are the things you work really hard on. Those are the really frustrating things," Gardenhire said. "When you're in these games and the offense isn't driving in the runs and clicking, you know that any time you give up a walk or an error, it's going to cost you, it's going to come back to get you."
This most recent loss — combined with Detroit's win at Kansas City — left the Twins 10 games back of the first-place Tigers in the AL Central race. It is Minnesota's biggest deficit since getting beaten 15-0 by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 27.
The White Sox clinched their first series victory in Minnesota since late in the 2007 season.
Less than three weeks ago, the Twins were within five games of Detroit, but Minnesota has lost 13 of its past 20 games.
"We've got enough talent in this clubhouse to win ballgames and play better baseball and we're not doing it," Twins starter Carl Pavano said. "Collectively we're not doing it. It's not one person, it's the whole team. We've just got to do a better job of playing good baseball."
Pavano (6-9) had his best start since before the All-Star break, giving up two runs — one earned — in eight innings. But the Twins were largely ineffective offensively against Chicago starter Zach Stewart (1-1) and the White Sox bullpen.
Stewart, making his White Sox debut, gave up eight hits over 6 1-3 innings with two strikeouts and a walk.
Stewart breezed through his first four innings and handled his first challenge in the fifth with great poise. Facing Joe Mauer with runners on second and third with two outs, he struck out the two-time AL batting champion to end the threat.
The Twins had an excellent opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth after Michael Cuddyer doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. But Chicago reliever Chris Sale got Jason Kubel and Jim Thome to groundout and Jason Frasor struck out Danny Valencia to end the inning and the threat.
"We missed our opportunities, 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position is not going to get it done," Gardenhire said. "You have to be a lot better than that to win in this league and we weren't very good."
Chicago broke it open in the ninth. Alejandro De Aza scored after a wild pitch by Joe Nathan and a throwing error by catcher Drew Butera. Paul Konerko singled in Juan Pierre, and Brent Lillibridge — pinch hitting for the struggling Adam Dunn — sent a 2-0 fastball from Nathan into the left-field stands to send the fans packing.
The Twins scored their only run in the sixth when Danny Valenica drove in Kubel to make it 2-1 and put runners at the corners with one out. But Delmon Young hit into a double play to get Stewart out of the inning.
Mauer went 0 for 4 and is now 3 for 21 (.143) this season with two outs and runners in scoring position.
It was all part of a frustrating night for the Twins.
"We got a great start from Pavano and we had plenty of opportunities to get a run in, tie the ballgame up and it didn't work out," Gardenhire said. "At the end, we didn't play very good defense, we didn't hold runners, they started running on us. The homer at the end kind of knocked our socks off."
NOTES: Gardenhire said 1B Justin Morneau (neck) felt good after Friday night's rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester. Morneau played again Saturday night, and is expected to play at least a week at Rochester before the Twins consider activating him. Gardenhire also said he expects to activate INF Alexi Casilla from the DL as soon as he's eligible in a week. ... Alex Rios went 3 for 5 for his first multihit game since July 19. ... Matt Tolbert started at SS for Minnesota in place of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who committed two fielding gaffes Friday night. Gardenhire shrugged the move off as simply giving the rookie from Japan a regular break. "Physical errors happen," Gardenhire said. ... The White Sox and Twins wrap up their three-game series on Sunday when Peavy takes the mound against Brian Duensing. Duensing makes his 22nd start of the season for Minnesota, but only his second career start against the White Sox. He's 8-9 with a 4.5 ERA in 2011.