Two weeks ago, Twins starter Kevin Correia had such a bad outing in a 10-5 loss to the Brewers that reporters asked manager Ron Gardenhire if Correia's job was in jeopardy.
"He's one of our starters," Gardenhire said. "He's paid good money to do that, and he's going to get paid no matter what. So he's one of our starters."
The manager's loyalty has paid off since. Correia (3-8, 5.29 ERA) proceeded to blank the Blue Jays in Toronto on June 10 (six innings, six hits) and then held the Red Sox to one run in six innings on Monday at Fenway Park.
"My stuff has just gotten better over the last few outings," Correia said. "I think it's a product of struggling a little bit because you know you have to go out there and be sharper. I think in the long run it's going to help me, going on that bad streak. I think I'm throwing the ball better now than at any point last season."
White Sox starter Andre Rienzo (4-4, 5.67 ERA) is nearing a demotion if he continues his current slide. He's allowed 13 runs in his past two starts, and managed only five strikouts to four free passes. His stuff hasn't been good enough for a win since May 20 in Kansas City (two earned runs in five innings).
One way Chicago plans to combat the Twins offense is with defensive shifts, which manager Robin Ventura said have been an odd strategic addition this season.
"It takes a while to get used to," he said. "Any time you see a hit and it goes to a spot where you would normally be standing, you have to believe in it enough. It will eat at you, moving guys around."
So far, the manager thinks the changes have been for the better.
"I see more the other way where we have the guys in the right spot than seeing a ball trickle through where a guy would be standing," Ventura said. "You see it work. You see the way players react to it even at the plate. Some guys, it bugs them that you do it, whether he hits it there or not. It does make him look around and think of something else."
White Sox: Ventura wants to cut down strikeouts
Chicago entered Friday's game leading the American League in strikeouts with 641.
And despite the high risk-reward scenario for sluggers such as Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu, Ventura wants to make sure that number takes a tumble, no matter who is at the plate.
"You're really working on some two-strike approaches," Ventura said. "We start looking at it and how we do it as a team and I just think we strike out too much. A little shorten up with two strikes, put it in play. There needs to be more of that and guys have to be able to do that.
"We're hoping it can be corrected. I don't go up there and do it, but it's definitely something that we're focusing on because you have to be able to put it in play. When you start striking out this much, nobody has to play defense against you. So put it in play, put pressure on the defense."
Twins: Fien already past Fenway fiasco
When Casey Fien took the mound against the Red Sox in the bottom of the 10th inning on Wednesday, there was no reason to think he would give away a 1-0 lead.
The Twins' setup man had compiled a 2.17 ERA through 31 appearances this season, and had been one of the most trustworthy components of a bullpen that has helped the Minnesota pitching staff exceed expectations in 2014.
But back-to-back home runs by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli sent the Twins home as sweep victims, and Fien needed an opportunity to rebound mentally. He got it on Thursday night, when Gardenhire put him in to protect a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning.
"It's exactly what I wanted to happen, and what I needed to happen," Fien said. "It was a good feeling. It was good to get out there. Gardy put me in, in the same situation, and that goes a long way for me."
Fien needed just five pitches to get the bad taste out of his mouth, as he sat down the Sox in quick order. Confidence restored, he figures to continue playing a big part in late-game situations.
• Despite the early 0-2 series hole, the White Sox are 18-10 at Target Field since Aug. 5, 2011.
• Joe Mauer ranks third among active players with 174 hits against the White Sox (Torii Hunter with 187 and Victor Martinez with 183 are the others). He's reached base safely in 20 straight home games (since Sept. 7, 2011) and hit in 13 straight home games against Chicago.
Alex Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.