Nate Jones can't hold lead, White Sox fall to Twins
MINNEAPOLIS – This season ceased to be about playing for one win long ago for manager Robin Ventura and the White Sox.
Mired in last place for most of the season, they're thinking about the future.
That's why Ventura left right-hander Nate Jones, who is being groomed for setup duty, in to face lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau with a one-run lead in the eighth inning Thursday night.
Jones gave up a double to Mauer and the tying single to Morneau before Chris Herrmann's pinch-hit single in the ninth lifted the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Sox.
"He's been through that before," Ventura said. "He's been tough on lefties and righties, so if you're going what you feel comfortable with, you're comfortable with him staying in there. They were better tonight."
With left-hander Donnie Veal available in the bullpen, Ventura stuck with Jones, a hard-throwing 27-year-old who led all AL relievers with a .093 batting average against, to face Minnesota's two best hitters. Mauer scorched a double to center field and just beat a strong throw from right-fielder Avisail Garcia to tie the game.
Herrmann followed in the ninth with a single off Ramon Troncoso (1-4) to hand the Sox their 10th straight road defeat. It also spoiled a nice start from Andre Rienzo, who gave up two runs — one earned — on four hits with two strikeouts in six innings.
Paul Konerko had two hits and an RBI and Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez also drove in runs to help the Sox take a 3-0 lead after three innings.
But after a shaky start to the game in which he gave up two runs in the first, Twins starter Mike Pelfrey settled down and grinded out a solid outing. He gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out four in 6 1/3 innings. Trevor Plouffe added a solo homer and Josh Willingham also had an RBI single for the Twins.
"It's a moment I'm going to never forget and hopefully there will be more to come," Herrmann said.
The 25-year-old Rienzo, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is one of four starters in the White Sox who is 25 or younger, an encouraging sign that better days lie ahead for a team that has languished at the bottom of the AL Central for most of the season.
"I tried to give the team a chance to win," Rienzo said. "That's my job. Happy that I only had one bad inning that I needed to get out of the quicksand. I tried to get out today. I was so-so, but giving the team a chance to win is my focus on the time."
After giving up the single to Willingham that cut his lead to 3-2 in the sixth, Ventura stuck with the rookie, who got Oswaldo Arcia to groundout to end the inning. Another lesson learned for the young team.
"Part of it is leaving him in there to get through that," Ventura said. "He gets the big out in the sixth, and it's part of growing up in the game and getting better."
Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham left the game in the fourth inning with a strained right quadriceps. Beckham, who leads the team with a .310 average, went 1 for 2 with a single and a run scored before being pulled for what the team called precautionary reasons. It's the latest setback for an oft-injured player who missed most of the first two months of the season with a broken hamate bone in his left hand.
"Just something that's been kind of nagging me but I've been playing through," Beckham said. "I think it just showed up tonight more than it had in the past."
NOTES: Jeff Keppinger replaced Beckham and went 0 for 2 with a strikeout. ... Sox OF Dayan Viciedo missed his sixth straight game with a sore left thumb. Ventura said Viciedo was making progress. ... Twins GM Terry Ryan said C/OF Ryan Doumit (head) has been improving and could be activated as soon as Friday. ... RHP Nick Blackburn, who has spent all season at Triple-A Rochester, will have surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee on Friday, Ryan said. ... RHP Kevin Correia (8-8, 4.59) is scheduled to pitch for the Twins on Friday against Sox LHP Jose Quintana (6-4, 3.70).