MINNEAPOLIS — Logan Darnell didn’t have a choice of which opposing pitcher took the mound Saturday, Darnell’s first career big-league start.
Unfortunately for the Twins left-hander, his counterpart was White Sox All-Star Chris Sale.
On a night when Sale pitched one of his best games of the year, Darnell did not. Minnesota’s rookie allowed seven runs on 11 hits in five-plus innings Saturday as he and the Twins fell 7-0 to Sale and the White Sox.
"It’s not really how you picture it," Darnell said.
Saturday was just Darnell’s second career big-league appearance. He had one relief outing on May 6 at Cleveland, pitching three flawless innings in his major-league debut. The Twins recalled Darnell this weekend to take the ball Saturday in place of Kyle Gibson, whose sore back pushed his start back to Tuesday.
Darnell put up some solid numbers at Triple-A Rochester before his recall. In 17 starts, he was 5-5 with a 3.43 ERA. But his first start a the major league level did not go according to plan.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Darnell ran into trouble with two outs in the second. He struck out Dayan Viciedo and Paul Konerko and was one out from escaping with a scoreless second inning. But Conor Gillaspie doubled and Tyler Flowers singled him in for Chicago’s first of seven runs.
One inning later, Adam Eaton sent a one-out single to center and later came home to score on Jose Abreu’s sacrifice fly. Darnell and the Twins trailed 2-0 at that point, a seemingly surmountable deficit on most nights.
But this wasn’t like most nights. One run of support would have been enough for Sale, who dropped his season ERA to 1.88 after tossing eight scoreless innings. He fanned 12 Twins in that stretch and surrendered just five hits, keeping Minnesota’s hitters baffled all night.
"A great two-seamer, a good slider, a great changeup," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Sale, who improved to 10-1 on the season. "He didn’t make it easy on us."
With Sale dealing, Darnell labored. He served up a two-run homer to Alexei Ramirez in the fifth inning after Gordon Beckham led off the inning with a double. That made it 4-0 in favor of the White Sox, which was more than enough for Sale.
Darnell’s rough start wasn’t quite over. He gave up four straight singles to Konerko, Gillaspie, Flowers and Alejandro De Aza before getting the hook. Three of those runners came around to score when reliever Ryan Pressly entered the game, all three of which were charged to Darnell.
"He got through it. One here, one there, and then the big two-run homer," Gardenhire said. "A little bit of a rough one there. He kind of hung in there for a little bit. When you’re facing that guy, it’s tough to give up anything. Tonight, that was one of the better nights we’ve seen from Sale."
Saturday’s game continued a trend of rough outings for Twins starting pitchers. Phil Hughes exited early on Thursday due to a leg injury. Kevin Correia lasted just four innings in Friday’s loss. Darnell at least pitched into the sixth inning and did record seven strikeouts, but the damage was done by the time he exited the game.
The 25-year-old Darnell insisted he wasn’t nervous leading up to Saturday’s game. Having his first MLB appearance under his belt certainly helped him know what to expect when he took the mound.
"I really wasn’t nervous," Darnell said. "If anything, I was just trying to focus on what my plan was. I thought I stayed with it, even though it didn’t really pan out the way I wanted it to later in the game."