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Slowey throws seven frames of two-run ball

CHICAGO -- Kevin Slowey finally turned in the type of outing on Monday night that the Twins had been waiting for.

Unfortunately, the young right-hander didn't have the offensive -- or defensive -- support he needed as he was outdueled by White Sox starter Mark Buehrle in a 3-0 loss at U.S. Cellular Field. After beating the White Sox in seven of eight first-half meetings, the Twins have dropped four straight to their rivals and have lost eight of their last nine games overall.

But even with his team being held to one run or fewer for the 14th time in 26 games this month, manager Ron Gardenhire's main concern after his club's 10th shutout of the season wasn't the lack of offensive production. Though the scoreboard showed zero errors for his club, Gardenhire felt each of the three runs could have been prevented if the Twins had made plays behind Slowey, who conceded two runs on six hits in seven innings of work.

"He did everything Buehrle did, except he gave up a couple of runs," Gardenhire said of Slowey, who entered the game 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA in his only two starts this season. "If we had made some plays, it could have been a 0-0 ballgame. I think all three runs really shouldn't have been out there without us giving it to them. I think [Slowey] pitched well enough to do the same thing Buehrle did. We just didn't quite get it done."

The first defensive mishap in Gardenhire's mind came in the second inning when left fielder Trevor Plouffe took a bad angle on a line drive by Alejandro De Aza, who eventually scored on a Tyler Flowers sacrifice fly. Then, in the seventh, Dayan Viciedo snuck a ground ball through the left side of the infield and scored the only other run against Slowey on a Flowers double. Slowey prevented any further damage with back-to-back flyouts.

The defensive letdowns didn't stop with Slowey's departure, though, as the White Sox tacked on a third run against reliever Matt Capps behind a pair of questionable plays to start the eighth. Alexei Ramirez singled a ball past third baseman Danny Valencia and then scored from second on a Viciedo infield single, as Valencia couldn't come up with a grounder cleanly and neither he nor shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka got to the ball quick enough.

"I know Danny had a little bit of a struggle there at third base, he wasn't moving too well tonight," Gardenhire said. "A couple balls went by him that shouldn't have. But we've got to pick that last ball up. Even if we don't get an out, you still have to get the ball and keep that run from scoring."

"Slowey pitched good, we just didn't score runs," Valencia said when asked about the team's defensive performance. "I mean, there's some plays that could have gone either way. But like I said, Slowey pitched really well, but we didn't score any runs. You can't win games if you don't score any runs."

Not only were the Twins shut out for the third time this month, two of which came at the hands of the White Sox, but Minnesota failed to advance a runner to third base in the game, which lasted just two hours and four minutes. Buehrle worked quickly through the Minnesota lineup, which was without Joe Mauer (stiff neck) and Justin Morneau (left shoulder), allowing just four hits -- all singles -- in his 7 2/3 innings.

The Twins' biggest threat came in the eighth when Nishioka worked a five-pitch walk to start the inning and moved to second on a Ben Revere sacrifice bunt. He wouldn't get any closer to crossing the plate, however, as Buehrle got Plouffe to line out softly on one pitch and reliever Jesse Crain came on to strike out Michael Cuddyer.

"Today, I felt good and everything was working," Buehrle said. "But against these guys, with Mauer and Morneau not in there, [Jim] Thome got traded, it's a different lineup. They are still capable of doing some damage."

"Every time he pitches, we say the same thing," Valencia said. "He's a guy who works really fast, throws a lot of different pitches and he throws them all for strikes. He keeps you off balance. He works fast and you could just see all our at-bats the entire night, we just had trouble getting good swings off him."

The Twins have now been shut out in back-to-back games against the White Sox, a team they had dominated prior to this year's All-Star break. Not even Slowey's best performance of the season could prevent the Twins from dropping their fourth straight to the White Sox, against whom they had been 32-12 since 2009 prior to this four-game skid.

"Anytime I go out there I want to give my team a chance to win, but making progress is a good thing, and I'm looking forward to my next time out," Slowey said. "But again, it's disappointing, for all of us, to lose. Every one of us in here wants nothing more than to win every time we come into the park, so it's tough."

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