Willingham homers twice before bulllpen falters

Willingham homers twice before bulllpen falters

Willingham homers twice before bulllpen falters
CHICAGO -- It didn't matter who Twins manager Ron Gardenhire brought in. The White Sox smashed at least two runs off all four Twins relievers Tuesday night, as starter Cole De Vries watched his two-run lead and chance at redemption in his first appearance at U.S. Cellular Field since losing his Major League debut vanish quickly.

Two batters after De Vries left the game, Kevin Youkilis walked and the next six White Sox batters reached base off relievers Tyler Robertson and Casey Fien in a four-run seventh inning, culminating in a go-ahead two-run single by Dayan Viciedo that gave the White Sox a two-run lead.

Relievers Jeff Gray and Anthony Swarzak didn't fare any better an inning later, allowing five earned runs on three hits and two walks. The Twins surrendered nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings of an 11-4 defeat.

"They kind of ambushed us," Gardenhire said. "We didn't make any pitches, they put some in the seats, we didn't throw it over, we get ahead in the count, we couldn't put a hitter away."

The Twins bullpen entered the game with a 3.68 ERA, but its success against the White Sox has been minimal. Minnesota relievers have allowed 21 earned runs in 21 innings against the South Siders.

"That hasn't happened very often to this ballclub or this bullpen, but tonight was a really rough night for the boys out there," Gardenhire said. "We didn't make any pitches, walked too many guys, and ultimately lose a ballgame because of it."

A two-run home run by Adam Dunn off Robertson tied the game at 4. Fien entered and allowed two hits before intentionally walking Alexei Ramirez to get to Viciedo, who made the Twins pay.

De Vries has exited with the lead in three of his last four appearances, without a win to show for it.

"It's always difficult," De Vries said. "The bullpen just had a little trouble tonight. They've been pitching great throughout the season. Tonight, we just weren't able to put together a complete game. It's unfortunate, because I thought we were going to take one from one of the better teams in baseball."

Fien allowed three hits, two walks and two runs without recording an out, before Gray forced Gordon Beckham to ground into a double play with the bases loaded to end the seventh. Gray walked the first two batters of the eighth inning and gave up a two-run double to Dunn, before Swarzak surrendered an RBI single to Alex Rios and a two-run home run to Ramirez.

The last couple innings made De Vries' six innings of two-run ball look masterful.

"I've been able to have a few strong outings against some very good hitting teams," De Vries said. "Hopefully, I can just continue to go on that path, and if possible eat up a few more innings to keep our bullpen better rested."

He kept the Twins within striking distance long enough for Josh Willingham to give Minnesota the lead in the sixth inning with his second home run of the game off White Sox starter Jose Quintana.

"He still pitched a good game," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "Willingham got him twice. But other than that, he's in every game. That's one of the things he does."

Willingham's three-run shot to left field gave the Twins a 4-2 advantage. His solo home run in the fourth inning tied the game at 1.

Willingham, who hadn't hit a home run in his previous five games, entered Tuesday hitless in his previous 11 at-bats. He was 0-for-5 in the series opener Monday, grounding into two of the Twins' five double plays.

"It's not really so much a bounce-back performance," Gardenhire said. "He's been doing it for us all year long. He should have been in the All-Star Game. His numbers will indicate that at the end of the year that he's an All-Star player."

De Vries' only earned run allowed came on a solo home run by Paul Konerko that tipped off a leaping Willingham's glove in left field in the fifth. Konerko also hit a solo shot in De Vries' first career start, when De Vries allowed six runs in five innings.

"They've got a lot of power throughout that lineup," De Vries said. "In this park also, if you don't make your pitch, and they're looking for that little bit of mistake, they'll capitalize on it."

Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.