MINNEAPOLIS – Justin Morneau homered for the first time in almost two months, a two-run shot that helped the Minnesota Twins to a 7-4 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday.
Morneau’s third homer of the season followed an RBI single by Josh Willingham in the sixth off Deunte Heath after ace Chris Sale’s night ended after five shaky innings. Morneau last went deep April 28. The 2006 AL MVP has three seasons of 30-plus homers.
His teammates teased him in the dugout after he rounded the bases, pretending to ignore him. So Morneau gave out a bunch of air high-fives, a light moment on a night when several Twins enjoyed fine performances. Brian Dozier reached base four times, including a three-run homer in the second against Sale (5-6).
Glen Perkins pitched a perfect ninth for the second game in a row, recording his 18th save in 20 tries, after Kevin Correia (6-4) pitched into the seventh.
The Sox have dropped six of seven to fall to 29-40. They’re 11 games under .500 for the first time since an 11-22 record May 6, 2011.
If Sale is struggling, that’s almost a sure sign the Sox are in trouble, too. The lanky left-hander failed to reach the sixth inning for the first time in his past 10 starts, giving up four runs and eight hits. He also walked two, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.
Four of Sale’s five strikeouts were notched with his first four outs, but the second inning was a rough one. Oswaldo Arcia hit a sharp comebacker that Sale got a glove on to protect his body, but in doing so he jerked his midsection backward and flipped over from the momentum. Arcia had a one-out single, and Sale stayed in the game after he was checked out. Then Clete Thomas walked, and Dozier’s two-out drive – his fifth homer of the season – put the Twins in front 3-1.
Right before that, as Sale covered first base to barely get Pedro Florimon on a 3-1 groundout, the pitcher appeared to twist his left ankle after trying to slow down and pivot toward the diamond as the runners moved to second and third. That prompted a second manager-trainer visit to Sale. He didn’t show any discomfort after that, but he never found his form.
Trevor Plouffe’s RBI single in the third inning extended the lead, and the Twins left eight men on base over Sale’s five innings. Sale is 0-4 in four starts this month, but in 26 1-3 innings he has allowed only nine earned runs.
Alejandro De Aza’s fourth leadoff home run this season was not nearly enough for the White Sox, who crept closer against the Twins bullpen but ran out of outs to give. Correia gave up just five hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings without a walk. He struck out six.
NOTES: Sale plunked Arcia, coincidentally or not, near the shoulder with nobody on and one out in the fifth. ... Morneau tied Kirby Puckett for fifth place on Minnesota’s home run list with the 207th of his career. ... White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez has started all 69 games, but manager Robin Ventura said he believes a day off in the near future would help Ramirez. “You would like to, but you can’t guarantee that,” Ventura said. ... Twins first-round draft pick Kohl Stewart shagged fly balls during batting practice after signing his contract and will leave Thursday for Fort Myers, Fla., to start pitching in the Gulf Coast League. Stewart, also a star quarterback at St. Pius X High School in Houston, turned down an offer to play baseball and football for Texas A&M. When Stewart stepped on the plane for Minnesota this week, he noticed a familiar face sitting in front of him: Adrian Peterson. After they landed, Stewart used Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin as an introductory icebreaker. Sumlin was an assistant at Oklahoma when Peterson played there. “It’s kind of intimidating to introduce myself to Adrian Peterson, but it kind of worked out well,” Stewart said.
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