Twins skid into break with 11-0 loss to White Sox

The Twins head into the all-star break having lost three of four at home to American League Central rival Chicago, the last an unsightly 11- loss Sunday afternoon at Target Field.

Still, it beats last year at this time, when the Twins were more than halfway to a last-place finish. Despite losing seven of their past 10 games, the Twins enter the break in first place, two games ahead of second-place Cleveland and three ahead of the White Sox.

“We’re not happy about this series,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There’s no way we’re going to sit here and speak glowingly about the way we just played. We won one out of four of these games and we had ambitions to do a lot more than that. That being said, I think it was a first half that was mostly good baseball – but we do have work to do.”

Andrew Vaughn and Josh Harrison each drove in three runs, and right-hander Dylan Cease — an all-star snub despite one the best records in baseball — limited the Twins to one and two walks hit over seven innings. Cease, who struck out seven, improved to 9-4 and lowered his earned-run average to 2.15.

Chicago broke open a 4-0 game with a six-run, 10-better seventh inning, mostly off right-hander Joe Smith, who gave up five hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. Three of those hits were home runs by Yoan Moncada, Andrew Vaughn and Josh Harrison, the last a solo shot that made it 10-0.

Adam Engel doubled in a run in the ninth off reliever Emilio Pagán.

Making his first start since being placed on the disabled list with hip tightness on July 5, Chris Archer cruised through four innings before being touched for four two-out runs in the fifth inning. Returning from an injury list stint because of a sore hip, the right-hander gave up a two-run double to Tim Anderson and left with runners at second and third.

Right-hander Tyler Duffey relieved and gave up a two-run double to Moncada.

“It’s time for a break. I think that’s pretty unanimous,” Duffey said.

Archer (2-4) missed all of 2020 and most of last season because of hip injuries and thoracic outlet surgery but has made 16 starts this season, albeit while averaging fewer than five innings pitched. His previous start was June 30.

“Obviously, the rest really helped me,” Archer said. “I probably ran out of gas a little bit towards the end, but the rest really, really helped me feel really good.”

The White Sox, who started the season with injuries to key players such as pitchers Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Joe Kelly, plus position players Moncada, Eloy Jimênez and AJ Pollock, have won 11 of their past 18 games and shaved two games off their division deficit with the series.

The Twins (50-44) entered last year’s break on a four-game winning streak, a sweep of the Detroit Tigers capped by a walk-off victory, but were 39-50 and 15 games behind first-place Chicago. They finished 73-89 and 20 games out of first.

“What I like most about this first half is we haven’t played our best baseball and we’re in the position that we’re in,” Archer said.

The Twins won a season-high six straight May 18-24 to improve to a season-best 11 games over .500 (27-16) and 5½ games up in the Central. Since then, they’re five games under (23-28).

How close are the Twins to playing their best?

“There were times where I thought we were close, and right now, obviously, we’re not as close as we were maybe halfway (to) the halfway point,” Archer said. “But that’s encouraging, because we’re in the position we’re in and we have not played close enough to our potential.”

The Twins have five days off before their next game, the opener of a two-game Saturday at Detroit’s Comerica Park and first of 31 games against AL Central rivals remaining.

Minnesota plays division rivals in 23 of their last 27 games of the season.

“Do we want to win these games going into the break? A hundred percent,” Duffey said. “But at the same time, we’re in a good spot. We know what we’re capable of. … You can see that nobody’s in here dragging their head. It’s another series. We’ll come out ready to play Detroit and get there.”

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