CHICAGO (AP) — If P.J. Walters is auditioning for a spot in Minnesota’s 2013 starting rotation, he’d probably prefer a mulligan for Wednesday’s performance.
Alex Rios homered twice off Walters and drove in a career-high six runs to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 6-2 win over the Twins. Rios hit a grand slam in the first inning and a two-run shot in the sixth to help extend Chicago’s lead in the AL Central to 1 1/2 games over Detroit, which plays Wednesday night.
Walters (2-3) returned from the disabled list and allowed six runs in five-plus innings and walked three. It was his first start since June 13 due to shoulder inflammation.
“Six runs, we lost, bad day,” Walters said. “I wasn’t missing by a whole lot but enough to be balls and that, to me, that’s the big part of the game — not so much the homers, but the three walks. I don’t walk those three guys ... maybe it plays out a little different.”
The Twins erupted for 18 runs against Chicago pitching Tuesday, but White Sox starter Jake Peavy (10-10) silenced Minnesota’s bats a day later, allowing one run on six hits to win for the first time since Aug. 1.
Rios gave Peavy all the support he would need with his first-inning slam. Following Dewayne Wise’s leadoff single and walks to Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn, Rios ripped a 1-1 slider from P.J. Walters (2-3) over the left field bullpen for his second career grand slam.
Rios hit his first on Sept. 10, 2011 — a game-winner against Cleveland.
The resurgent 31-year-old then hit a two-run homer in the sixth to chase Walters. It was Rios’ third multihomer game this year and sixth of his career.
“It’s been so much fun when you come to the field and there’s a purpose,” Rios said. “We have to come here and win games. These last couple of weeks are going to be so much fun because of how close the race is.”
Added Gardenhire: “Take Rios out of the game and we’re still playing, but you can’t take him out because he took us out.”
Walters, who tossed his first career complete game at U.S. Cellular Field in May, was not as fortunate this time. He made two big mistakes to Rios and all three of his walks came around to score.
“We needed him to get through that inning,” Gardenhire said of Walters in the sixth inning. “These guys that are trying to win a spot in this rotation or get a look need to start getting deep into games.”
The Twins lost for the 11th time in 15 games against Chicago this season.
An offense that tormented White Sox pitching a night earlier was virtually nonexistent on Wednesday. The Twins had multiple runners on in three of the first six innings, but managed to scratch just one run off Peavy on a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Escobar in the third.
“Peavy was good, changed speeds, did all the things he should with a lead,” Gardenhire said. “He knows how to pitch with that stuff.”
Ryan Doumit and Chris Parmelee had two hits apiece for Minnesota, and Matt Carson drove in a run with a sac fly in the ninth.
The White Sox had won just one of their last 10 games against AL Central opponents.
Notes: Twins OF Josh Willingham (hamstring) did not start Wednesday for the second time in three games. He flew out as pinch-hitter in the ninth to end the game. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he hopes Willingham can play in the field Friday in the series opener against Cleveland. ... RHP Liam Hendricks (0-7, 6.11 ERA) will take the hill to open Minnesota’s homestand Friday. ... After a day off Thursday, the White Sox continue their homestand against Kansas City with LHP Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.11) on the mound.