(Sports Network) - The Chicago White Sox ended the season's first half as the hottest team in baseball, but things haven't gotten so smoothly since the club returned from the All-Star break.
The American League Central leaders will try to rebound from a shocking late- inning loss on Sunday when they continue their current road trip with tonight's matchup with the Seattle Mariners from Safeco Field.
Chicago won its final eight games prior to the break to vault into first place in the competitive AL Central, then extended its impressive win streak with an 8-7 victory over Minnesota on Thursday. The White Sox then proceeded to lose their next three clashes with the division-rival Twins and are in the midst of their longest skid since a four-game slide from April 15-18.
The White Sox appeared poised to end their winless drought on Sunday, taking a three-run lead into the ninth inning of the finale of the Minnesota series. However, the Twins scored four times off closer Bobby Jenks in their final at- bat to rally for a 7-6 triumph.
Jenks (1-2) entered the bottom of the ninth charged with protecting a 6-3 advantage, but promptly walked the first two batters before surrendering back- to-back RBI singles to Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Sergio Santos then came on in relief and walked Jason Repko to load the bases, and Delmon Young followed with a bloop single to tie the score. Center fielder Alex Rios' relay throw missed the cutoff man on the play, allowing Cuddyer to score the winning run from third.
"Just didn't have it," Jenks said afterward. "My cutter was coming back, my sinker wasn't sinking, the slider was big. Just didn't have my stuff today."
Sunday's win moved the Twins within 1 1/2 games of the White Sox in the AL Central standings. Chicago also holds a 1 1/2-game edge on Detroit, which was swept in a four-game set with last-place Cleveland over the weekend.
On a positive note, Chicago's Gordon Beckham went 4-for-4 with two RBI in yesterday's loss to extend his hitting streak to seven games. The sophomore second baseman has gone 12-for-18 at the plate over his last five outings.
The White Sox will turn to youngster Daniel Hudson tonight in hopes of reversing their recent fortunes. The rookie right-hander will be making his second start since being called up from the minors to take the rotation spot of the injured Jake Peavy.
Hudson struggled in his season debut, allowing five runs on six hits and walking three batters before leaving after four innings of a July 11 loss at Kansas City. The 23-year-old had been pitching very well for Triple-A Charlotte prior to the promotion, compiling an 11-4 record with a 3.47 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 17 starts for the Knights.
A fifth-round selection of Chicago in the 2008 draft, Hudson made six appearances (two starts) for the White Sox last September and went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA.
He'll be taking on a Seattle club that ranks last in the AL in both runs scored (309) and batting average (.239) and is a woeful 3-12 thus far in July. The Mariners were able to halt a string of four consecutive losses, however, with an extra-inning verdict over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday.
Jose Lopez knocked in the deciding run with a two-out single in the top of the 10th in yesterday's 2-1 win, scoring Franklin Gutierrez from second base. Gutierrez had reached base on a fielder's choice and got into scoring position with a steal of second.
Lopez ended 2-for-5 for the Mariners, who prevailed despite managing only five hits on the afternoon. Starting pitcher Jason Vargas performed well in a no- decision, holding the Angels to a run on four hits and striking out a career- high nine batters in 7 2/3 innings of work.
"I was able to throw quality pitches and I had good control of my changeup," said Vargas. "I knew I had to hold them down to win the game." The Mariners would love to receive a similar showing from David Pauley in tonight's opener of this three-game series. The longtime minor-leaguer is getting a look in the Seattle rotation following the team's recent trade of All-Star Cliff Lee to Texas.
Pauley took Lee's scheduled turn in a July 9 clash against the New York Yankees at Safeco Field and pitched admirably, yielding three runs -- one earned -- and just two hits over five innings. He still wound up with the loss, however, in Seattle's 6-1 setback.
The start was Pauley's first in the majors since September 26, 2008, while then a member of the Boston Red Sox, and sixth of his career. The right-hander is still in search of his initial win at the big-league level, as he's 0-4 with a 7.47 ERA in 13 appearances with the Mariners and Red Sox.
This will be the first-ever encounter with Chicago for Pauley, who threw four scoreless innings over a combined three relief appearances after being recalled from the minors in late June.
The White Sox swept a three-game set from the Mariners in Chicago from April 23-25, but lost four of six bouts between these teams held at Safeco Field last season.