CHICAGO – Pablo López was coming off an eight-inning, 14-strikeout masterpiece in his start last weekend, and the Twins outscored the White Sox by 16 runs through the first two games of the four-game series.
Maybe they were due for a dud.
At least it looked that way for most of Saturday night. López surrendered five runs in the first inning, all with two outs. The Twins loaded the bases in three separate innings, but none of them resulted in a hit — or even an at-bat for Royce Lewis.
Faced with a six-run deficit entering the eighth inning, the Twins left the bases loaded and the tying run at third base in the ninth during their 7-6 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Guardians beat the Rangers on Saturday, so the Twins' magic number to clinch a division title held at seven.
"I was impressed with the way that our guys just kept having good at-bats," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "That's all it really was. We made something happen. You're starting those innings, we were down 7-1 and that's a long way to come back."
The Twins scored four runs in the eighth inning after loading the bases with none out against reliever Gregory Santos. They scored each of those runs without a ball leaving the infield. One run scored on a wild pitch. Another run scored on Carlos Correa's infield single. More runs on a groundout and a fielding error at first base.
In the ninth inning, Jorge Polanco and Lewis hit back-to-back singles before Correa drew a two-out walk. Kyle Farmer, who struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, drew a bases-loaded walk. Finally within a run, Willi Castro hit a popup in foul territory to end the comeback bid.
"Our offense is still clicking, and we can always come back," Farmer said. "I think that's just who we are now."
It was a rough first inning for López, who completed five innings and struck out eight. Tim Anderson opened with a slow roller to Lewis at third base. Lewis barehanded the ball and saw his throw skip into right field for an error. López responded with back-to-back strikeouts before he left a down-the-middle fastball to Eloy Jiménez. López didn't bother to turn his head as the ball flew into the seats for a two-run homer.
The White Sox restarted a rally with two outs and the bases cleared. Yoán Moncada hit a soft liner to right field for a single. Andrew Vaughn followed with an infield single to third base. Then in a 0-2 count, López watched his curveball to Gavin Sheets sail over the wall in right field.
"Good pitches got hit for infield hits and broken-bat singles, then bad pitches got hit for homers with people on base," López said.
Six days after López put together one of the best starts of his career, he gave up five runs and five hits to his first seven batters.
"Everything felt fine," said López, who retired 11 of his last 12 batters. "The fastball had the [velocity], the carry. Really, just that 0-2 curveball — not where you want to throw that pitch. You want to get it below the zone, and I didn't."
The Twins gave López a 1-0 lead before he took the mound. Edouard Julien opened the game with a double in the right-center gap on White Sox starter Touki Toussaint's second pitch. Lewis followed two batters later with an RBI single pulled down the third-base line.
Once Chicago turned to its bullpen, the Twins showed signs of life. Facing lefty Aaron Bummer, Jorge Polanco and Lewis hit back-to-back singles, and Correa drew a two-out walk. Farmer, pinch hitting, represented the tying run in a 5-1 game. Farmer was called out on strikes.
In the seventh inning, the Twins had two baserunners with no outs. The potential rally fizzled with a strikeout and a double play.
"We had opportunities," Baldelli said. "We just gave too many of those opportunities away earlier in the game."