Walters goes the distance for Twins in rout

Walters goes the distance for Twins in rout

Walters goes the distance for Twins in rout
CHICAGO -- P.J. Walters did not only turn in the pitching performance of his career Tuesday night.

The right-hander turned in the pitching performance of the Twins' season.

Walters went the distance and struck out eight, as the Twins beat the White Sox, 9-2, at U.S. Cellular Field.

Walters allowed five hits -- one a first-inning solo homer -- and walked two, as he tossed the first complete game by a Twins pitcher since Carl Pavano on Aug. 28 of last year against Kansas City.

"He changed speeds, was able to spin the ball over, use some changeups, sinkers," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We gave him a nice lead and he did what a pitcher's supposed to do with it and ran with it."

It was just the latest in impressive outings for Walters since the 27-year-old right-hander had his contract purchased from Triple-A Rochester on May 10. Walters is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts, all of which have been of the quality variety.

"He's kind of a quiet guy and just goes out there and attacks hitters and that's what you need to do," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "He's been doing a great job getting ahead of guys and not being afraid. He's been throwing the ball well for us."

Walters' biggest miscue came in the first inning when White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham hit a solo home run to left-center field. Walters gave up another first-inning hit -- a double by Paul Konerko, who went 2-for-4 -- but was nearly flawless until the final inning.

Walters only faced one more than the minimum from the second to eighth innings, getting ground balls when he needed and using his breaking ball to fool hitters. He was at his best late in the game, when he struck out the side in the eighth inning on 10 pitches.

"I think, more than anything, it's that we hadn't seen him," Konerko said. "He had the ability to move his fastball, either straight, sink it or cut it. So when you haven't seen a guy, I think that's always a good thing to have."

The ninth inning provided drama only when Orlando Hudson and Brent Lillibridge singled and doubled, respectively, and, with Konerko due up, the question of whether Walters would get the chance to finish surfaced. He did, getting two groundouts -- one of which scored Hudson -- to end the game.

"I was pretty sure I was going back out [in the ninth]. After the double, you never know what they might do," Walters said. "But they had the confidence to leave me out there and I appreciate it."

Although Walters' gem was the main reason the Twins picked up their fifth win in their last six games, Minnesota's offense also put up two big innings against White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd (3-5, 4.66 ERA), who continued his reign as the Twins' personal piñata. Minnesota scored four runs in the second inning and five more in the fourth, knocking out the White Sox right-hander after 3 2/3 innings.

Tuesday's outing continued Floyd's career-long struggles against the Twins. He now is 4-11 with a 6.20 ERA in 16 career starts against Minnesota, including a current 0-8 stretch.

"He didn't have it today. Got it up, they got hit and it just kept happening," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's just one of those games. You put it behind you and come back tomorrow."

A leadoff walk to Justin Morneau in the second inning keyed the four-run second against Floyd. Ryan Doumit, getting his first start since May 16, followed with a double and, after an out, Floyd allowed three straight hits, including a two-run double by Alexi Casilla.

Jamey Carroll added an RBI single and later scored on a single by Denard Span.

Carroll started the fourth-inning rally with one out by getting hit by Floyd, who then allowed a double to Span. With two outs and runners on second and third, the White Sox intentionally walked Mauer to load the bases, but Josh Willingham delivered a two-run single and Morneau hit a three-run homer to end Floyd's night.

That was more than enough, as another fill-in in a battered Twins rotation provided the team's best outing of the year. Although Walters is part of a starting staff that currently has only one pitcher (Pavano) from the projected Spring Training starting five still around, Walters -- through three starts -- has proved he can compete.

"It's kind of what happens in this game. One person's injury turns into somebody else's opportunity and it's what guys do with their opportunities," Morneau said. "I think P.J.'s been waiting a long time for an opportunity like this and he's taken advantage of it. It's good to see, it's fun to watch and to see him out there, how happy he was, after the game, it's just great to see when a guy battles that long and takes advantage of an opportunity and hopefully continues."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.