Sickening start to series

Esteban Loaiza wasn't himself before Tuesday night's game.

He was sweating and spitting up.

"Don't be surprised if I throw up on the mound," Loaiza told White Sox radio analyst Ed Farmer less than an hour before the game.

Perhaps that explains why the Cy Young candidate wasn't himself during the game, either.

He lasted just 2 1/3 innings as the Sox lost to Minnesota 5-2 before a crowd of 32,921 at the Metrodome.

Loaiza said after the game that he hadn't been eating well and was low on energy. But he didn't consider telling manager Jerry Manuel that he couldn't go.

"I'm not that type of guy," he said. "I'm sick, but I battled."

Manuel said he didn't even consider holding Loaiza out in favor of Jon Garland, who would have pitched on his customary four days' rest.

"He was a little bit under the weather," Manuel said. "[But] you don't sit nobody [down] because of a cough. It's the major leagues. You have to be ready to perform.

"A lot of guys come out with those types of things and perform extremely well."

After doing just the opposite Tuesday and falling 1½ games behind the Twins, the Sox believe they need to win both Wednesday and Thursday to have any realistic chance to make the playoffs.

Seven of the Twins' final nine games are against the Tigers, who are challenging the 1962 Mets for the most losses in baseball history. The other two games are against fourth-place Cleveland.

Not only did Loaiza have his shortest outing since July 2, 2001, the five walks he issued were his most since a 1999 start against the Twins.

Loaiza entered the game averaging 2.0 walks per nine innings, eighth fewest among American League starters.

But he was wild from the outset Tuesday, walking leadoff man Shannon Stewart before issuing one-out free passes to Doug Mientkiewicz and Jacque Jones.

Corey Koskie drove in Stewart with a sacrifice fly before Loaiza retired Torii Hunter. Things only got worse in the second.

Loaiza failed to cover first base on Cristian Guzman's sharp grounder. Second baseman Roberto Alomar made a diving stop but had no one to throw to.

After Loaiza walked Stewart to load the bases, he gave up an RBI groundout to Denny Hocking.

Then he fired a 1-0 pitch in the dirt that catcher Miguel Olivo failed to block. It was Loaiza's second wild pitch in the inning, and this one gave the Twins a 3-0 lead.

Loaiza had more trouble in the third, allowing back-to-back singles to Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski before being removed.

Manuel said that Loaiza, who fell to 19-8, might be fatigued after throwing a career-high 207 innings.

"It's that time of the year," he said.

The Sox were again hopeless against Brad Radke. Five days after he held them to two runs in a complete-game victory at U.S. Cellular Field, the Twins' right-hander gave up only one run over seven innings.

"The middle of the order, they have to hit," Manuel said before his team's most important series of the season. "They have to come with it."

Carl Everett was about the only who did, singling home Carlos Lee in the sixth and ripping a 417-foot homer off LaTroy Hawkins in the ninth.

But with Loaiza suddenly morphing into the sub-.500 pitcher he was for the first seven years of his career, the Sox had almost no chance.